The new Jason Statham movie Homefront aims to be retro, greasy comfort food but despite its lowly ambitions, there’s barely enough spice here to merit a decent burp. The retro part comes from a dusted-off script that Sylvester Stallone adapted from a Chuck Logan novel, originally intended as a Rambo sequel. The grease is from co-star James Franco offering a gumbo variation on his Spring Breakers drug dealer, Alien, this time as a backwoods meth-cooking sadist named Gator Bodine.
The story, which echoes various seventies vigilante flicks (Billy Jack, Walking Tall), stars Stratham as undercover cop, Phil Broker, who rides with a meth-dealing biker gang in Shreveport. (We know he’s undercover, because he’s wearing what appears to be a Kiss wig.) During a police bust, the adult son of the chief biker, Danny T. (Charles Zito), gets killed. Danny, as he’s being led off in handcuffs, swears vengeance. Broker decides it’s time to retire.
Two years later, we find him, a widower and father of 10-year-old Maddy (Izabela Vidovic), trying to live a new life as a rural carpenter. Life is calm until his daughter, who has inherited her dad’s temper, beats up a school bully. Then, in the ensuing after-school parents meeting, Broker repeats the trick with the kid’s dim-bulb dad (Marcus Hester). Soon, the kid’s hot but meth-tweaking mom, Cassie (Kate Bosworth) has launched an old style Southern family feud against Broker.
She calls in her in wacko older brother, Gator, to help: “Mess with their heads like you did everyone else,” she suggests.
The presence of Bosworth and Franco as siblings, with their matching fine cheekbones, unintentionally highlights the similarities between fashion models and meth addicts. While Bosworth brings some strident conviction in her skinny, bad mama role, Franco seems to be mostly amusing himself with communicating the fun. The wily meth dealer sneaks into Broker’s home and – sensitive readers may stop here – steals Maddy’s kitten and finds a handy file folder revealing Broker’s real identity.
With the help of a lowlife girlfriend (Winona Ryder, another casting casualty), Gator gets in touch with Broker’s old biker enemy, Danny, now behind bars. The plan is to serve up Broker, in exchange for meth-dealing rights for the entire state, which appears to be a huge enterprise.
While negotiations are in the works, his slow-witted henchmen keep testing Broker through a series of beat-downs, with predictable results: The attackers end up in broken heaps on the roadside, while Broker walks away, grimacing slightly, like a man whose pants chafe. Director Gary Fleder (Runaway Jury, Kiss the Girls) just doesn’t bring the bone-cracking clarity to these close-combat sequences to make them work.
Fleder tries to amp things up with a third-act nighttime raid, but an extended suspense sequence that puts Maddy in peril, feels manipulative and ridiculous: It’s melodrama without momentum, and trash that doesn’t burn.