MRR Review: "Homefront"

Photo Credit: Open Road Films (II)

MRR Review: "Homefront"

Rating: R (Strong violence, pervasive language, drug content, brief sexuality)
Length: 100 minutes
Release Date: November 27, 2013
Directed by: Gary Fleder
Genre: Action, Crime, Thriller

Former DEA agent Phil Broker thought he was getting his family away from the insanity caused by his career when he moved them to a small town. Unfortunately, he finds himself face to face with Gator, the local leader of a meth ring. Gator, played by James Franco, is ruthless and will do anything to keep his operation going. Phil finds himself torn between starting a new life for his family and pursuing the justice against drug dealers that led him to work for the DEA in the first place. He finds out that old habits and motivations die hard, and leaving behind his career isn't as easy as he imagined, even after he has turned in his badge.

Jason Statham does a remarkable job with his portrayal of Phil Broker. Statham is known for his action-savvy roles and ability to steal the show as a hard-edged leading man. James Franco, while typically cast as the off-beat leading man, is no stranger to the role of villain. He played the antihero in the "Spiderman" franchise as Harry Oswald, Peter Parker's best friend and Spiderman's worst enemy. Franco's Gator has a certain seething charm, which adds a suspenseful edge to this action thriller. The tension between Gator and Broker is palpable as the film progresses, making it impossible to tell who will come out on top in this deadly game of wits.

The small town atmosphere of "Hometown" makes the film intensely creepy as Broker struggles to weed through the local connections and hidden secrets. Even those who seem to be trustworthy may prove otherwise when the town's most lucrative and underground industry is threatened by exposure. Broker finds that Gator's web of corruption runs deeper than he could ever imagine, and his family may pay the price for his uncovering it.

Although Statham and Franco take on the major roles in the film, "Hometown" boasts an all-star supporting cast. Winona Ryder portrays the tough-minded Sheryl Gott, and Kate Bosworth and Mischa Bosworth also have notable supporting roles. Ryder portrays a malicious yet charming woman who is Gator's right-hand woman when it comes to running the seedy meth operation. Even though Sheryl is completely sober and seems to have never had a drug problem herself, she chooses to engage in the damaging industry with no apparent pangs of conscience. While the female sidekick to the villain in most movies is at least somewhat sympathetic to the hero, Ryder's role turns that trope on its head, portraying one of the most calculating female villains in recent years. The women in this film are tough and work on both sides of the law, proving it isn't just the guys in this small and quaint town who have secrets to keep.

While many other films in the genre were made with the big screen in mind, "Homefront" is actually based on the Chuck Logan novel of the same name. Legendary action star Sylvester Stallone was so impressed by the plot of the novel that he chose to adapt it into a screenplay. Although filming started in 2012, Stallone actually wrote the screenplay much earlier.

"Homefront" features a dark and somber atmosphere thanks to the unique cinematography choices of director Gary Fleder. Fleder is known for his work on such films as "Don't Say a Word" and "Impostor." Fleder has a history of understated films with a strong element of suspense and eerie villains who are difficult to understand at first take. His film credit history lies behind the considerable excitement generated around this film long before its release. Even before the film hits theaters, critics and fans alike are speculating about the various plot elements and raving about the portrayals by the film's leading and supporting cast.

"Homefront" promises to be a superb and intelligent addition to the thriller genre. Although the film takes place in a small town setting, the corruption and duplicity the main character is forced to deal with rival that of any big city. Fans of the thriller and action genres will appreciate Statham's portrayal of the male lead, and Franco fans will doubtlessly love seeing their favorite actor in such a different and challenging role. The atmosphere of the film is thoroughly creepy throughout, yet the plot is nuanced and well paced enough to satisfy even the pickiest film aficionado. The soundtrack and dark cinematography add the final finishing touches to this late-fall thriller, making it a must-see for fans of the action-thriller genre.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5