Movie Review: 'Homefront' (2013)

Word to the wise, do not watch the trailer for "Homefront" before watching it as it practically gives the entire plot away. Nevertheless, this is a highly entertaining and engaging action movie that deserved to have more left to the imagination.

“Homefront” is one of the rare breeds of action thriller that mixes it up with some authentic human drama and, in doing so, vests itself with emotional leverage that inquires the audience to look the other way at some weaker plot points.

Jason Statham stars as an ex-DEA agent who goes underground after a bust gone wrong. Joining him is his 10-year-old daughter, Maddie (Izabela Vidovic). Their world is soon turned upside down when a playground scuffle escalates into a full-blown blood feud. The rate at which the story unfolds is taut while allowing for various dramatic moments in between the action.

Director Gary Fleder who has made several quality thrillers, “Kiss the Girls,” “Imposter,” and “Don’t Say a Word,” among others, brings his skill to thrill, full force in “Homefront.” Sylvester Stallone penned the script years ago as a vehicle for himself, and you can definitely pick up on an 80’s vibe within the atmosphere of the overarching premise.

The film might have benefited from taking a step back in time because given the technological shift. There are certain issues that could have been sidestepped now. That's not the only logic sacrificed to generate a story. Seeing as he's a former undercover agent, Statham's character should not make the mistakes he does, such as leaving his home unsecured, and that is one of the smaller glaring omissions made to advance the plot.

As for the action, the dependable Statham delivers with his rhythmic brand of "bang em’ up" fight style. The fight choreography is tight and precise. There are no exaggerated frills or Van Damme-style thrashing. Statham has built his brand on meaning business; getting the job done swiftly, and “Homefront” is no exception to the rule. There are electrifying sequences where the tension builds just right before boiling over.

Statham remains himself in most of his projects, and here is no different. It causes a tad of friction when characters act like they don’t notice a difference between his and the local’s drawl. However, the movie draws you in enough to overlook it.

Majorly aiding in the distraction is the delightful turn of Izabela Vidovic, who plays his precocious daughter. She blends in seamlessly with Statham and gives an emotionally powerful performance that is quite impressive.

Going in anticipating an action thriller, “Homefront” nails unexpected dramatic territory with strong performances by its villains. Especially worthy of note is Kate Bosworth as the strung-out drug addict, whose mama bear mentality finds her making a toxic request of her deranged brother, Gator (James Franco). Her gaunt appearance and haunting expressions bring the chills as she frighteningly disappears into one of the best turns of her career.

James Franco, who dazzled earlier this year in “Spring Breakers” continues to seize the screen with his sinisterly unnerving presence. Franco treads the waters of villainy with masterful skill, not allowing his characterization to be swallowed up in any camp or cartoonish mania.

A film like this is only as good as its villain, and Franco is magnificent. Winona Ryder rounds out the triangle of baddies with her sturdily precarious performance as Gator’s girlfriend

Where a lot of films get caught up in crafting the villains into evil enigmas that are just evil for the sake of being the antithesis to our hero, “Homefront” offers a different spin. Instead, their bad deeds amount to the work of desperate people, plagued by the demons of ambition and an ache to improve their lives by telling themselves they are only doing one more bad thing to accomplish their goal.

In this rare instance, the villains are as intriguing as the good guys. The narrative is balanced as a result. Thus, making “Homefront” entertaining despite whoever is on-screen. It’s an accomplishment that ups the ante for the genre and hopefully a revitalized interest in it, as well. Rating: 7.7/10