There’s a report that came out of Germany recently publishing the total amount of bullets fired by police in 2011. The number was eighty-five, forty-nine of which were warning shots. That’s down from the previous year where ninety-six shots were fired. But that’s everything. And Germany’s a big, gun-toting country.
In the opening moments of the new Jason Statham thriller, Homefront, there are more bullets sprayed at the bad guys by the police within a few minutes than the sum total of Germany’s yearly usage, forty-seven of which are used against one man. As a friend might add when sounding as though he’s trying to make a point but doesn’t quite round it off, just sayin’.
In Homefront, two years after that deadly shoot-out, ex-DEA agent and single parent Phil Broker (Statham) whose American accent seems to come via London’s Camden Town, moves to rural Louisiana to basically hideaway in his house by the lake and enjoy the peace and quiet while raising his daughter in an idyllic, countrified neighborhood. But being a Jason Statham movie, trouble is never far away.
Trouble begins when a pudgy school yard bully picks on Statham’s daughter. That was a mistake. With surprising precision, trained by her karate-kicking father, the ten year-old daughter fights back, knocking the bully to the ground. Naturally, the bully is humiliated and cries to his redneck parents, who storm the school and demand revenge. That’s the first conflict. The second comes when the bully’s father approaches Statham in front of the school with the intention of teaching the outsider a lesson, only it doesn’t work out like that. Statham knocks him to the ground. Naturally, humiliated in front of everyone, the bully’s father demands revenge. And so it goes.
There is a plot of sorts. James Franco is a local drug dealer known as Gator who has ambitions of expanding his drug distribution statewide, and he’s going to use what he knows about Statham’s DEA past, including that big shoot out we saw at the beginning, against the ex-lawman to achieve his goal. That’s the supporting story line. What happens up front is this: We have a never ending series of conflicts where backwater, less-than-bright characters pick a fight, get beaten, then want revenge for being beaten, so they pick another fight, and get beaten again. It’s redneck logic to its idiotic extreme. And it doesn’t stop.
“Whatever you’re thinking,” Statham warns more bad guys who bully him at a gas-station, “Re-think it.” Of course, we don’t really want anyone to re-think anything. It’s not that kind of film. We want the bad guys to attack so we can enjoy the satisfaction of watching Statham swiftly kick everyone to the ground again and break a few more bones without breaking into a sweat. After all, that’s what a Jason Statham movie is really all about. It’s doesn’t matter what the plot calls for him to do, that’s immaterial – we just want to see Statham kick butt. That’s why there’s an audience.
The film is basically routine stuff, a generic Jason Statham action flick rolled off the assembly line that will soon fade until the next one. But at least the casting is interesting with some star names attached to the credits. With a screenplay written by none other than Sylvester Stallone, there’s James Franco, surprisingly effective as a low-rent, drug dealing scum bag, plus Winona Ryder as a bad-girl waitress who if she had any sense would’ve left town a long time ago, but she doesn’t have any sense, and Kate Bosworth as a scrawny, drug-addled, redneck momma who seems perpetually angry about something, brought on, no doubt, by being continually strung out and in need of a fix, and Bosworth does it well. These are not nice people, particularly when all you want is to hang out with your daughter by your nice house next to the lake and enjoy early retirement.
The action, like Statham’s karate kick, is swift and efficient, and for the most part the film delivers what its target audience wants, but it might be getting to the point where we want something more out of a Statham film. He’s already proved how good he can be with the right material. Check out his best film, 2008’s The Bank Job. As he ages, maybe it’s time he started thinking of aiming his career with projects a little less formulaic. He’s not a great actor, but he’s a hugely likable personality, and he’s surprised us before. It’s time to start surprising us again.
MPAA Rating: R Length: 100 Minutes Overall Rating: 5 (out of 10)