The 1971 thriller The French Connection has one of the worst poster taglines ever: “The time is just right for an out and out thriller like this.”
What does that mean? Vietnam blows? Catch this thriller! Nixon’s a douche? Catch this thriller! The hippies sold you out? Catch this thriller! The mind boggles at the mind-boggling non-meaning of that sentence.
But here is something true about Homefront: The time is just right for an out and out thriller like this.
Think about it. It’s Thanksgiving Day. You’ve choked down a billi on pounds of turkey and you’re not one of those jerks who thinks he needs to get in line early at Best Buy to purchase dumb shit you don’t need.
Nah, you want to nap. And then you want a movie that is anathema to the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, bloated holiday awards-fodder dramas, and is something no one else in your family will want to see.
Goddamnit, you want Homefront. You NEED Homefront.
This absolutely absurd, dumb, loud, brutish and mercifully short action picture is the very definition of absurd, dumb, loud, brutish action pictures. But you know why its brand of absurd, dumb, loud, brutish action is better than most other absurd, dumb, loud, brutish action pictures?
Sylvester Stallone wrote this one. STALLONE. And better yet, he didn’t direct it.
We can rely on Sylvester Stallone, screenwriter. When it comes to the corn, he goes ALL IN (see: Staying Alive). But because Homefront is a Stallone-written action movie, it will be a) short, b) easy to follow, c) steeped in 1980s nostalgia without realizing it’s steeped in 1980s nostalgia.
Former DEA agent trying to live the quiet life in a new town? Check. Dead wife? Check. Cute-as-buttons 10-year-old daughter? Check. Crazy randoms out to kill ya? Check.
If it were 28 years ago, this movie would be written by Steven E de Souza and called Commando. But it’s 2013, Schwarzenegger just did a Stallone movie, and Jason Statham is the embodiment of quiet menace.
So: Homefront. Director Gary Fleder—you may remember him from such hackwork as Don’t Say a Word, Runaway Jury, and Kiss the Girls—knows from action directing. The fist fights are tightly staged, choppily edited (a little too choppily, but whatever—it’s 2013), and the sound effects crunchy.
The acting is better than it should be. Fleder does pretty well with performers of all stripes, and here there’s no exception. Kate Bosworth is an appropriately tweaked meth-head; Winona Ryder is an appropriately tweaked meth-head; James Franco is appropriately James Franco-ish as the meth-head brains of the operation; and Statham is the appropriately let’s-pretend-he’s-American-like-we-used-to-do-with-Arnold-in-the-1980s hero.
The story, not that it matters, is an excuse to kill a lot of people (though not as many as in, say, Rambo, Stallone’s short 2008 entry in the thought-it-was-dead Rambo series). Statham is Phil Broker, the aforementioned DEA agent, undercover and making a deal with some meth cooks. The deal goes bad (as these things must), and soon Broker has gotten some meth dealer’s son killed with 47 bullets—the count is mentioned later because WHY NOT? DON’T JUDGE STALLONE—to the face, neck, chest and lower extremities.
Two years later, Broker and his kid are in mourning. You know, dead moms and whatnot. The kid, Maddie (Izabela Vidovic), is bullied at school. She beats up the bully because her father, of course, taught her to fight. Broker is called in to school, he meets the nice school psychiatrist, and she warns him that feuds linger in this town like in Appalachia.
Man, she ain’t kiddin’. Before long there are stuffed bunny kidnappings, kitten kidnappings (the cat lives), break-ins, tire slashings, and then, yes, METH BIKERS OUT FOR REVENGE.
The whole thing is so glorious. Twisted, stupid, gleefully silly glory. Dumb, dumb, dumb, but so much fun. Of note: As in all Stallone-written movies, plot threads are dropped as often as they’re raised (see: school psychiatrist; sadly underused sheriff played by Clancy Brown). And raise this rating up to a yay! if you miss the days when action movies were just short, stupid and single-minded.