Why Statham should never be allowed to play Jack Reacher...
A river of missed opportunities and wasted actors leaves you with a sour feeling despite the film’s earnest best intentions and sporadically engaging action-thrills.Based on the novel of the same name by Chuck Logan – one of a series of books about the same recurring character – and the adapted screenplay by Stallone, which was reputedly written originally with the intention of Sly himself taking up the role, and directed by Gary Fleder – who made his debut with the superb cult classic Things to do in Denver when you’re Dead – Homefront had all the foundation of something special.
When James Franco, Winona Ryder and Kate Bosworth joined the party, the chances of this were further increased. Indeed, perhaps if Stallone himself were leading the pack, this might have just made for something a little more memorable.Unfortunately, despite Statham’s best efforts, he’s just not up to the job, and with the director putting the piece together with lazy apathy, and the script reducing any promising book elements to a more predictable, familiar core, even the supporting cast can’t keep their heads above water. It’s far from a bad film, and Statham fans may actually be surprised by how much time and effort they invest in character development and plot construction, but ultimately you’ll watch and engage with it at a relatively non-committal level, finding it has all the intentions (or, if you were cynical, pretentions) of being more than just another throwaway action thriller – the likes of which Van Damme and Seagal made their names with back in the 90s – but, unfortunately, failing to elevate itself beyond this level.
Phil Broker has just moved to a small Southern town in the middle of nowhere, relocating his young daughter to a new school and a new home. He was an undercover DEA agent, but when his cover was blown, he was given a new identity and a new life. Unfortunately a simple, small dispute between his daughter and the son of one of the locals escalates to unnecessary levels of violence and redemption; the feuds run deep in this area Broker is told repeatedly, and he learns it the hard way. When a local meth dealer starts looking into Broker’s background, however, Broker’s past life threatens to catch up with him.
You get the feeling that Statham deserves better than this.
You get the feeling that Jason Statham deserves better. Better scripts, better stories and better direction. But the honest truth of it is that, even under better circumstances, he doesn’t appear to rise to the challenge – he has just spent too long doing throwaway action flicks and any acting skills have largely remained dormant within. He’s been looking for a different direction – beyond straightforward action movies – for quite some time, and recently took on the Parker character previously made iconic by Lee Marvin in the classic Point Blank and then Mel Gibson in the highly enjoyable Payback. Brimming with the potential to be the start of a franchise – with countless stories to mine for ideas – the end result was generic and throwaway, with bland acting and a limited story sporadically interspersed with Statham’s trademark violence. Nobody wants or expects there to be a sequel.
Homefront is, unfortunately, a similar story. Don’t get me wrong, it is a step-up, and follows in the same promising vein as his last flick, the darker, more thoughtful Hummingbird, but these are baby steps, and Statham really needs to up his game. It’s one of the reasons why he would be a terrible choice for the character of Jack Reacher – everybody moans about Cruise, and Statham certainly has the superior physical presence, but there’s no substitute for acting ability as well. Playing Broker in Homefront is, for all intents and purposes, Stath’s Reacher, but you’ll be hard pushed to find anything memorable about this piece: certainly nothing that would make you want to have more from these characters.
Fleder is far from the giddy heights afforded by his excellent debut, and is on Kiss the Girls / Runaway Jury form, turning in a slick-looking piece which simply doesn’t have the heart or strong lead (i.e. Freeman or Hackman) to stand out. It’s by-the-numbers directing at its most uninspiring, and Stallone’s script doesn’t help, although one always has to wonder how well some books would transfer as films – here the multiple character and story arcs mesh in a thoroughly contrived and unsatisfactory fashion, where, over the course of a 400-page book you’d find it harder to make such quibbles. But Fleder should have made it less confusing, hazy and disjointed – it just doesn’t hang together very well, and, come the expected action denouement characters are forced to do and behave out of character, further damaging the credibility of the piece.
The plus side comes if you look at it from another angle. Ignoring the wasted potential – all the great ingredients that went into making this thing – and taking the film as nothing more than another throwaway Jason Statham action flick, you’ll likely find that it does well to be all that, and more. We get a reasonably convincing relationship developed between Broker and his daughter – newcomer Izabela Vidovic channelling a young Chloe Moretz to good effect – and Franco, Ryder and Bosworth nail that meth look, with Bosworth on particularly strung-out form, and Ryder revelling in her biker chick-style role, despite the fact that her character is perhaps the most inconsistent. Only Franco really feels like he’s struggling to understand what he’s doing in the piece.
For pure action fans, there's plenty to like.
Stath, now the wrong side of 45, is finally taking more mature roles. Sure, he can still convincingly kick ass better than many a decade younger than him, but he needs to plan for the future otherwise he’s going to find himself in DTV territory eventually, playing alongside all the other action relics of days gone by. Unfortunately, whilst we almost get a few tears, and whilst he tries his best in the part (well, hopefully, this isn’t actually his best), this just is not good enough. But for pure action fans, there’s plenty to like. A few nice explosions, a couple of nice – though gratuitous – chase sequences, and your standard quota of fight sequences (all fitting the label of the usual genre tropes – the ‘scare him out of town’ brawl, the ‘we caught him!’ brawl, and the fists-and-firearms finale, of course) will more than keep you entertained. If that’s all you’re looking for.
VerdictHomefront delivers the action, and attempts to deliver a great deal more, but ultimately fails in this, for the most part, leaving the best efforts of the cast and crew a little wasted in the inconsequential, unmemorable action mix that results. There is so much damn promise here, but so little of it is actually delivered.
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