A gang of bikers rode up to this bar one night to pick up a huge stash of meth from a lab situated in the back, little knowing the cops were watching their every move thanks to the presence of an undercover agent in their midst. The leader clashes with his son over what they should be doing with the drugs, but he wishes to follow his right hand man's suggestions and transport them to a safer place - yet that right hand man is actually Phil Broker (Jason Statham), and he's the secret policeman. On emerging from the bar, the law is awaiting them and a gunfight breaks out, then the gang leader and his son escape, though not for long, as Phil gives chase on his motorbike...
This may begin like a Steven Seagal movie circa 1990, but Homefront was actually a Sylvester Stallone movie, or it would have been if he hadn't grown too old to play the role. It could have been an entry in the Rambo franchise if Sly had played his cards right, but as it was he stayed on as producer and won a screenplay credit for his groundwork, and casting Statham was not a million miles away from casting a Stallone in his heyday, although the Englishman was not going to attain the same levels of worldbeating success that the older man had reached during the seventies and eighties, heck, even the nineties, this was a star with more comebacks than Gloria Swanson. At least, Statham wasn't going to do so with this.
There was nothing especially egregious about Homefront, it's just that it took itself awfully seriously for a beat 'em up and shoot 'em up flick, as if we were asked to accept the dramatic possibilities of watching an undercover cop smashing a Deep South rural meth lab. If you wanted that, perhaps the television series Breaking Bad might prove more satisfying, as this may not have been bland, but there was little distinguished about it when it gave the impression of constantly being about to erupt into something more than what was on offer. Eschewing the city, recent widower Phil moves with his young daughter Maddy (Izabela Vidovic) to a countryside retreat where we are introduced to the tyke sticking up for herself in the playground by giving a bully a nosebleed.
This brings her and her father to the attention of the boy's mother Cassie (a ratty-looking Kate Bosworth) who wastes no time in demanding an apology and setting her husband on him when one is not forthcoming. Said hubby is dropped like a sack of spuds by Phil, as his skill in unarmed combat is a given in Statham movies, and the next day when filling up his car a gang of three nasties try to beat him up and receive the same treatment. Maddy's nice teacher Rachelle Lefevre warns Phil of his outsider status, simultaneously establishing possible romance between them and the upcoming altercation between the hero and the villain, who turns out to be our old friend James Franco. Tiring of confrontational art projects, the idiosyncratic actor has run wild with a meth operation and - no, we're talking about his character, naturally.
But Franco was more convincingly on the edge in the same year's Spring Breakers, not least because there was more than a hint of self-spoofery about that performance of which there was no trace here. The star may have been many things, but a hardass wasn't really his forte, leaving the inevitable confrontation between him and Statham ending unsurprisingly but no less of a letdown for all that. More interesting was Winona Ryder as Franco's screen moll Sheryl, here essaying an ostensible baddie who may just change her tune if given a shot at redemption, but even then promising material was allowed to tail off in lengthy last act bursts of violence. Equally intriguing was the stuff about Phil not being able to open up to his daughter about what it really was he made his living doing, trying to protect her from the harsh realities of life though if that were true why was he teaching her to marmalise her tormentors with extreme prejudice? Missed opportunities abounded in a film that played down anything distinctive, leaving a mediocre experience. Music by Mark Isham.