Hey! Jason Statham finally found a thing that works! Well, a thing that finally works for me. Lots of folks seem just fine with the badass martial-arts machine he typically portrays. But that's so completely uninteresting, so cold, and I was starting to wonder if he had anything else to offer.
He's trying. With a decent script — not that this wholly qualifies — he's got something. With the right costar, he can be downright warm and charming. Weirdly and wonderfully, it appears that costar is a kick-ass little girl. Once — in the remarkable Safe— might have been an anomaly. But now it's twice. One more flick in which he's teamed up with a tough 10-year-old girl, and it'll officially be a trend — and perhaps the best thing that ever happened to Statham as an actor.
Please don't be misled. Homefront, despite the title, is not a heartwarming Lifetime melodrama. It's a wildly ridiculous action flick in which Statham's Phil Broker is both a former Interpol cop and a former DEA agent now living in Middle of Nowhere, Louisiana, alone with his preteen daughter Maddy (Izabela Vidovic, who is seriously awesome) since his wife died. After being burned on an undercover drugs op in New Orleans, Broker's now just lying low, hanging out, not looking for any trouble. Trouble comes anyway: Maddy puts a bully in his place on the school playground, enraging his meth-head mama (a truly scary Kate Bosworth), who sics her meth-lord brother on Broker for having the audacity to teach his daughter how to fight, humiliating her son.
There's actually some almost-profound stuff here, not surprising as the screenplay is written by Sylvester Stallone (based on a novel by Chuck Logan). Don't laugh: As a writer, Stallone is an astute observer of male machismo and suppressed emotion — hello, Rocky — and he makes us feel sorry for that grade-school bully, who's not getting appropriate adult guidance at home.
But mostly, that's not what Homefront is about. It's about discovering that Bosworth's brother is named Gator Bodine, played by James Franco in full-on crazy mode. We realize it's going to come down to Statham vs. Franco. It does. Meth labs blow up real good. It's all fairly ridiculous.
Yet neither Stallone's script nor Gary Fleder's direction overplay the ridiculous stuff, and we're never invited to take any of it too seriously. Homefront maintains a bizarre, entertaining sense of redneck soap-opera tragedy. With inevitably exploding meth labs. ♦