[Screen It]


(2013) (Jason Statham, James Franco) (R)

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Action: A former DEA agent and his 10-year-old daughter run afoul of a drug lord when they move to a small Southern town.
Phil Broker (JASON STATHAM) is a DEA agent whose final bust brings down a ruthless, drug-dealing motorcycle gang led by Danny T (CHUCK ZITO), who watches his own son gunned down and swears vengeance on Broker. Phil, a widower, decides to retire and move with his 10-year-old daughter, Maddie (IZABELA VIDOVIC), to a quiet, small town in the South and keep his former law-enforcement past a secret.

The town turns out to be anything but quiet. After Maddie beats up a bully at school, she and Broker draw the wrath of the kid's drug-addicted mother, Cassie (KATE BOSWORTH), and her brother, Gator (JAMES FRANCO), a ruthless local drug lord. The local sheriff (CLANCY BROWN) is no help. But fortunately, Broker befriends a local man named Tito (OMAR BENSON MILLER), who gives him the scoop on who's who and what's what in town, and the school psychologist, Susan (RACHELLE LEFEVRE), who he flirts with.

Gator soon learns Broker's true identity and finds out about Danny T's vendetta against him. He senses an opportunity to take his small-time operation to larger markets. So, he gets in touch with his old accomplice, Sheryl (WINONA RYDER), and offers Danny T and his minions on the outside Broker and his daughter in return for distribution and drug profits.

OUR TAKE: 3.5 out of 10
The new action thriller "Homefront" starts off promisingly. It's the age-old tale of the aging gunslinger -- in this case Jason Statham's veteran DEA agent, Phil Broker -- hanging up his spurs and six-shooters, eager to forget his past, and seeking a quiet homestead away from trouble. But trouble always finds him. A town always needs cleaning up. A bad guy always needs to be put in his place. In this case, the town is a scenic, little Louisiana backwater ruled by small-time drug lord Gator Bodine (James Franco).

The film, written and co-produced by Sylvester Stallone and directed by Gary Fleder, sets up an early emotional pull, too. Broker is a recent widower, and he moves to the tiny town to give his 10-year-old daughter, Maddie (Izabela Vidovic), a safer and quieter place to live. Obviously, Broker didn't do much Googling beforehand.

The film's first two acts are fairly solid. Sure, the movie alternates between scenes of sunlit moments where daddy and daughter ride horses while acoustic guitars strum on the film's soundtrack and Statham and/or Franco beating the hell out of people with baseball bats, metal bars, and even gas pumps as what sounds like shrill country metal assaults the eardrums. Sly has never been the most subtle wordsmith.

But then "Homefront" gets to its third act, and it's just a mess, folks. In the early going, Gator is set to be this ruthless criminal who relishes beating a teen boy's legs with a Louisville Slugger for even daring to cook up a small batch of crystal meth in his town. He's also vaguely creepy, skulking around the Brokers' house while they are out for an afternoon ride, swiping the family cat, stealing Maddie's beloved stuffed bunny, and then cutting its head off and hanging it from a tree. But for whatever reason, the film puts him on the sidelines at the most crucial moment in the action. It actually calls in an outside villain to go try and kill Broker and Maddie. It's not even the drug dealer that vows revenge against Broker in an opening prologue after he brings down his drug operation, but a former accomplice (Winona Ryder!) of his.

Gator literally goes into town while the main action climax happens and has a drink! He is then pressed back into service when an accomplice of his kidnaps Maddie. He is almost forced into being the third-act bad guy. The guy doesn't even kill the family cat! He takes it to his drug lair and gives him a saucer of milk!

Other promising characters are also completely squandered in this third act. Clancy Brown plays a local sheriff who is ... uh, sort of corrupt. But the film never really decides whether he is on Gator's side or Broker's side. He just sort of growls at both guys and does nothing to help or hinder either of them. Broker has a flirtation with the gorgeous psychologist (Rachelle Lefevre) at his daughter's school. You would think that this would be leading up to her being in some sort of danger, too, when the doo-doo hits the fan. But once she helps Broker throw Maddie a birthday party about halfway through, she completely disappears!

Similarly, Kate Bosworth is in this thing. She comes on strong, real strong, in the first half-hour of the movie as the drug-addicted and spectacularly profane sister of Gator. She absolutely hates Broker and Maddie after Maddie beats up her bullying son in the schoolyard. Every time, she sees either of them, she just unleashes a string of swear words that barely make sense. But when Broker and Maddie invite her son to Maddie's birthday party, the woman completely melts! She even tries to be a protector of the girl in the film's third act.

Additional idiocy runs rampant throughout the picture, but I won't go into detail. OK, yes I will. I mentioned that early in the film, Gator takes a bat to a kid's legs. After he's done with him, he tells him to "Run! Go on, git!" And the kid magically gets up and is able to run away with some slight assistance from his girlfriend. Then, at least two characters are shot at point blank range -- one in the stomach and one, it looks like, in the head. In any other film, the way these scenes are staged and shot, you would think they were instant goners. Remarkably ... both survive!

What a shame. What a waste. I actually enjoy a good Jason Statham bust-'em-up. And the film does feature two pretty good fight scenes where the man gets to strut his stuff, especially a sequence where he takes out three bad guys while his hands are tied behind his back. But the film's script keeps him and the rest of the film tied up. I rate it no better than a 3.5 out of 10. (T. Durgin)

Reviewed November 20, 2013 / Posted November 27, 2013

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