Skip to main content

Whatever you’re thinking, rethink it.

Homefront
(2013)

The Stath only wants to raise his daughter in peace and quiet, but the ubiquitous James Franco has other ideas in this Sylvester Stallone-scripted yarn (based on Chuck Logan’s novel).  That’s life all over, isn’t? There you are, merrily going about your daily business, and suddenly, from out of nowhere, Franco appears, hell-bent on bringing you down. What a drag. As you’d expect from Stallone in wordsmith mode, Homefront is a watchword in unsubtlety. Thoroughly proud of the slew of clichés that fuel it, there is precious little interest in logic. Instead Sly concentrates on building towards a succession of bone crunching altercations for Statham, on which level the picure more than delivers.


This is Stallone’s first non-Rambo/Rocky/Expendables script in more than a decade, although he initially intended it as an outing for his monosyllabic ‘Nam vet. Perhaps Logan’s status as a veteran piqued Stallone’s interest, albeit the lead character is an ex-undercover cop in both novel and movie. The Stath, Stallone’s Expendables buddy, is Phil Broker, who, following the death of his wife, moves with daughter Maddy (Izabela Vidovic) to a small Louisiana town. He probably should have moved a whole state away from his old job, as before long it comes back to haunt him. Not helping matters any is his decision to keep whacking great files evidencing his former life unsecured in his basement. When he comes to the attention of local meth dealer Gator (Franco) the latter sees an opportunity to expand his business, by shopping Phil to the biker gang he infiltrated (shades of Sons of Anarchy, but only vaguely). You can tell life’s been stressful for Phil of late. In the two years since he quit his job he’s gone from Revolver-style long hair to a big baldy.


And here's another chance for the Stath to show off his paternal chops, following Safe. He makes a better stab at it than his complete lack of an attempt to pull off an American accent (probably for the best, really). If kid’s role begins promisingly (giving the school bully a bloody nose, an encounter that trigger everything else), she quickly falls prey to stand child-in-peril plotting. Phil’s path is just as familiar, not looking for a fight yet not backing down when danger comes calling.


A savage Stath beat down is often a lot of fun to behold, and director Gary Fleder shoots crisply and edits cleanly, ensuring the action is well defined. Sometimes he overplays the obvious, intercutting gathering biker vengeance with an adorable birthday party for Maddy. He’s also unable to make the OTT finale convincing, but he’s most likely only translating what’s on the page. Fleder’s big screen outings are rarer and rarer, and he has never lived up to the promise of his debut Things to Do in Denver When You’re Dead. He ought to be making more movies, though; as solid journeymen directors go, he’s one of the better ones. Whether it’s a dust up at a petrol station or a three-against-one while bound with zip ties, the action is expertly presented for Maximum Stath.


The most interesting part of Homefront, for reasons both good and bad, is the supporting cast. Kate Bosworth, almost unrecognisably wan as Gator’s tweaker sister, is a convincingly yokely yokel. Clancy Brown isn’t given nearly enough screen time as the local sheriff but it’s good just to have him on board (you can never have enough Clancy Brown). Less effective is Winona Ryder, who was convincing as the wife of a hit man in The Iceman but here is unable to sell us the idea that she’d have even the most peripheral of underworld connections.


Then there’s the ubiquitous Franco, who might just have delivered if he was playing a weasely, out-of-his-depth, lowlife who wants to play with the big boys. Unfortunately, he’s supposed to be a genuine badass, out-of-his-depth, lowlife who wants to play with the big boys. Fleder seems aware of this; when he shoots the actor’s first scene, taking an iron bar to some meth heads, it’s from below in an attempt to give Franco an imposing presence. It doesn’t work. He’s about as threatening as a ripe banana. We want to see him get his from the Stath, obviously, but Gator never becomes a feasible adversary. He even takes care of the Stath cat, rather than disposing of it (“I want my kid’s cat back” isn’t quite Jodie Foster’s “Give me back my dog!” in The Brave, but it’s in the same general ballpark).


You know exactly what you’re getting with a Jason Statham movie.  Even Hummingbird, an attempt to broaden his palate, falls back on tried-and-tested action eventually. Homefront doesn’t have enough fun with its trappings to stand out, but it’s occasionally rousing. You don’t really want the Stathto test new territory lest he stumbles and falls, so it will be interesting to see how he fares in the upcoming Wild Card (based on a William Goldman screenplay, and previously made as Heat with Burt Reynolds) and being the butt of Melissa McCarthy’s jokes in Spy.


**1/2

Popular posts from this blog

Abandon selective targeting. Shoot everything.

28 Weeks Later (2007) (SPOILERS) The first five minutes of 28 Weeks Later are far and away the best part of this sequel, offering in quick succession a devastating moral quandary and a waking nightmare, immortalised on the screen. After that, while significantly more polished, Juan Carlos Fresnadillo reveals his concept to be altogether inferior to Danny Boyle and Alex Garland’s, falling back on the crutches of gore, nihilism, and disengaging and limiting shifts of focus between characters in whom one has little investment in the first place.

The Bible never said anything about amphetamines.

The Color of Money (1986) (SPOILERS) I tend to think it’s evident when Scorsese isn’t truly exercised by material. He can still invest every ounce of the technical acumen at his fingertips, and the results can dazzle on that level, but you don’t really feel the filmmaker in the film. Which, for one of his pictures to truly carry a wallop, you need to do. We’ve seen quite a few in such deficit in recent years, most often teaming with Leo. The Color of Money , however, is the first where it was out-and-out evident the subject matter wasn’t Marty’s bag. He needed it, desperately, to come off, but in the manner a tradesman who wants to keep getting jobs. This sequel to The Hustler doesn’t linger in the mind, however good it may be, moment by moment.

Doctors make the worst patients.

Coma (1978) (SPOILERS) Michael Crichton’s sophomore big-screen feature, and by some distance his best. Perhaps it’s simply that this a milieu known to him, or perhaps it’s that it’s very much aligned to the there-and-now and present, but Coma , despite the occasional lapse in this adaptation of colleague Robin Cook’s novel, is an effective, creepy, resonant thriller and then some. Crichton knows his subject, and it shows – the picture is confident and verisimilitudinous in a way none of his other directorial efforts are – and his low-key – some might say clinical – approach pays dividends. You might also call it prescient, but that would be to suggest its subject matter wasn’t immediately relevant then too.

I said I had no family. I didn’t say I had an empty apartment.

The Apartment (1960) (SPOILERS) Billy Wilder’s romcom delivered the genre that rare Best Picture Oscar winner. Albeit, The Apartment amounts to a rather grim (now) PG-rated scenario, one rife with adultery, attempted suicide, prostitution of the soul and subjective thereof of the body. And yet, it’s also, finally, rather sweet, so salving the darker passages and evidencing the director’s expertly judged balancing act. Time Out ’s Tom Milne suggested the ending was a cop out (“ boy forgives girl and all’s well ”). But really, what other ending did the audience or central characters deserve?

Your desecration of reality will not go unpunished.

2021-22 Best-of, Worst-of and Everything Else Besides The movies might be the most visible example of attempts to cling onto cultural remnants as the previous societal template clatters down the drain. It takes something people really want – unlike a Bond movie where he kicks the can – to suggest the model of yesteryear, one where a billion-dollar grosser was like sneezing. You can argue Spider-Man: No Way Home is replete with agendas of one sort or another, and that’s undoubtedly the case (that’s Hollywood), but crowding out any such extraneous elements (and they often are) is simply a consummate crowd-pleaser that taps into tangible nostalgia through its multiverse take. Of course, nostalgia for a mere seven years ago, for something you didn’t like anyway, is a symptom of how fraught these times have become.

Listen to the goddamn qualified scientists!

Don’t Look Up (2021) (SPOILERS) It’s testament to Don’t Look Up ’s “quality” that critics who would normally lap up this kind of liberal-causes messaging couldn’t find it within themselves to grant it a free pass. Adam McKay has attempted to refashion himself as a satirist since jettisoning former collaborator Will Ferrell, but as a Hollywood player and an inevitably socio-politically partisan one, he simply falls in line with the most obvious, fatuous propagandising.

Captain, he who walks in fire will burn his feet.

The Golden Voyage of Sinbad (1973) (SPOILERS) Ray Harryhausen returns to the kind of unadulterated fantasy material that made Jason and the Argonauts such a success – swords & stop motion, if you like. In between, there were a couple of less successful efforts, HG Wells adaptation First Men in the Moon and The Valley of the Gwangi (which I considered the best thing ever as a kid: dinosaur walks into a cowboy movie). Harryhausen’s special-effects supremacy – in a for-hire capacity – had also been consummately eclipsed by Raquel Welch’s fur bikini in One Million Years B.C . The Golden Voyage of Sinbad follows the expected Dynamation template – blank-slate hero, memorable creatures, McGuffin quest – but in its considerable favour, it also boasts a villainous performance by nobody-at-the-time, on-the-cusp-of-greatness Tom Baker.

Archimedes would split himself with envy.

Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger (1977) (SPOILERS) Generally, this seems to be the Ray Harryhausen Sinbad outing that gets the short straw in the appreciation stakes. Which is rather unfair. True, Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger lacks Tom Baker and his rich brown voice personifying evil incarnate – although Margaret Whiting more than holds her own in the wickedness stakes – and the structure follows the Harryhausen template perhaps over scrupulously (Beverly Cross previously collaborated with the stop-motion auteur on Jason and the Argonauts , and would again subsequently with Clash of the Titans ). But the storytelling is swift and sprightly, and the animation itself scores, achieving a degree of interaction frequently more proficient than its more lavishly praised peer group.

You just threw a donut in the hot zone!

Den of Thieves (2018) (SPOILERS) I'd heard this was a shameless  Heat  rip-off, and the presence of Gerard Butler seemed to confirm it would be passable-at-best B-heist hokum, so maybe it was just middling expectations, even having heard how enthused certain pockets of the Internet were, but  Den of Thieves  is a surprisingly very satisfying entry in the genre. I can't even fault it for attempting to Keyser Soze the whole shebang at the last moment – add a head in a box and you have three 1995 classics in one movie – even if that particular conceit doesn’t quite come together.

You have a very angry family, sir.

Eternals (2021) (SPOILERS) It would be overstating the case to suggest Eternals is a pleasant surprise, but given the adverse harbingers surrounding it, it’s a much more serviceable – if bloated – and thematically intriguing picture than I’d expected. The signature motifs of director and honestly-not-billionaire’s-progeny Chloé Zhao are present, mostly amounting to attempts at Malick-lite gauzy natural light and naturalism at odds with the rigidly unnatural material. There’s woke to spare too, since this is something of a Kevin Feige Phase Four flagship, one that rather floundered, showcasing his designs for a nu-MCU. Nevertheless, Eternals manages to maintain interest despite some very variable performances, effects, and the usual retreat into standard tropes, come the final big showdown.