HOMEFRONT is an action movie about a widowed ex-DEA agent who retires to a small town for the sake of his 10-year-old daughter. The only problem is he picked the wrong town. (c) Open Road
Full disclosure, I gave up on Jason Statham movies some time ago. I lasted until The Mechanic when it finally hit me that “All of these movies look/feel the same” and quit seeing them. I’d scoff at seeing trailers for a new “Statham keeps somebody safe and chases stuff” trailer. Then came the trailer for Homefront. It was your typical Statham movie where he’s an ex-DEA agent who has a kidnapped kid and…. was that James Franco? As it turns out yes it was James Franco as the main villain. The hiring of the enigmatic Franco suddenly had my attention. With the movie recently hitting Netflix Instant I decided to give it a shot.
It’s for the best that I waited for it to hit Netflix Instant too. I don’t say this because the movie is bad. Far from it actually. Screenwriter Sylvester Stallone (seriously) makes it less “chase stuff around” and more character based which can be fun. The key word being can. While I appreciate the effort the characters are just as clichéd as any other Statham movie. Speaking of which aside from having hilariously long hair early on this movie doesn’t really cover any new territory. He runs, he drives, he fires guns and fights people while delivering lines at the same not-quite-monotone that he does in every movie. Given nobody expects a Daniel Day-Lewis performance but this is the same old, same old performance I had grown tired of. The closest we get is a fake American accent which was compellingly bad. But that was to be expected. Just as expected were the action scenes.
What I mean by that is that the action would be above average and fun but by no means something that would stick with you. While there are hints of brilliance like Statham’s fight with Frank Grillo (The Purge: Anarchy) it’s pretty pedestrian for the most part. If the movie didn’t take place in the south I would assume it was Transporter 4 or whatever. Well not really because this really pales in comparison to something like The Transporter. Shame because I do think with the right choreographer Statham can have some great fight scenes. Just not in this movie.
The one saving grace was James Franco as Gator. What makes him great is that he doesn’t portray the typical Statham villain. Instead of a kidnapper or master planner he’s a scummy drug dealer. More of a thinker than a fighter this twist on the typical Statham villain plays much more into Franco’s strengths. Still I can’t say that this saved the film. Despite trying to stick out from the other Jason Statham movies it falls into the same trappings. At least they tried to be different instead of following the same old thing.
The plot of this action film begins in 1996, with Los Angeles in a violence-crazed conflagration. One of the LAPD’s most notorious cops, John Spartan (Sylvester Stallone), known as “the demolition man,” is in hot pursuit of blonde-haired psychopath Simon Phoenix (Wesley Snipes), who is so nasty he even kills sometimes just because he feels cranky. John captures Simon, but not before Simon kills innocent hostages. John is blamed for the deaths of the hostages, and both he and Simon are cryogenically frozen to remove their brand of ultra-violence from a society that is simply just too violent. The film shifts to the future world of 2032, where Los Angeles has become a megalopolis called San Angeles. There is no poverty, Arnold Schwarzenegger was (at one time) president of the United States, and Taco Bell is the sole survivor of the Franchise Wars. Into this peaceful and bland society, Simon is summarily defrosted by reigning benevolent dictator Dr. Cocteau (Nigel Hawthorne) to have Simon murder Edgar Friendly (Denis Leary), the leader of a group of underground rebels. But Cocteau bites off more than he can chew when the melted-down Simon proceeds to go on a murder-and-looting spree. Reluctantly, Cocteau defrosts John to hunt down his old adversary. As John adjusts to self-driving cars and having sex wearing helmets, he pairs up with Lenina Huxley (Sandra Bullock), a bored cop with a nostalgic fascination for 20th-century culture. ~ Paul Brenner, Rovi
Of all the types of movies sci-fi seem to age the worst. From the quickly advancing technology to the fact that the “future” is considered 2000 for a lot of movies. That’s just the disadvantages of the genre. In a world where Harry Potter already looks silly I’m not only pleased but utterly shocked that Demolition Man holds up as well as it does.
In his first foray into science fiction Stallone puts in a fine, if a bit typical, Stallone performance. While he gets to do some fun comedy I’d be hard-pressed to differentiate John Spartan from Cobra. No the real star is Wesley Snipes as Simon Phoenix. One of the few times he played the villain he absolutely kills it. While playing the villain RZA levels of over-the-top he still has enough time to show off to establish the character as more than a gimmick. It helps that the action delivers. Mostly practical effects green screen is rarely used. More importantly, and an art that is seemingly lost, the green screen isn’t that noticeable. But to me that isn’t what made the movie so fun.
For me the glue that holds Demolition Man together is how insanely 90’s and nostalgic it felt. A mish mash of 90’s sci-fi clichés we get things like cryogenic freezing and virtual reality. While still things these were the height of “FUTURE TECHNOLOGY!”at the time and it just takes me back in time. When arcades were still a thing and you had to put on an uncomfortable helmet to play Redneck Rampage. This is best demonstrated with the inclusion of Dennis Leary. There’s something charmingly lame about Dennis Leary getting time to do his Bill Hicks-lite shtick for a minute while extras do their best to not crack. It’s the kind of satirical and oddball sensibility that makes this movie work.
There have been a lot of classic Stallone movies. From Rocky to First Blood he has an epic action filmography. But for my money this may be my favorite. With a satirical wit and fun performances it stands above a lot of action movies past and present. It also brought us one of the weirdest Planet Hollywood props you’ll ever see.