Homefront beats up the bad guys on Blu-ray but there’s no getting around the problems of this leaden, bloodless adaptation of the Chuck Logan novel. Fans of Jason Statham or Sylvester Stallone should be cautioned that this is not the 80s action movie throwback they’ve been promised in the various trailers and publicity. What we have here, sadly, is a misfired attempt to translate the Phil Broker novels into a current actioner – with a series of poor choices undermining the whole enterprise. Between the casting, the writing, the direction, and even the use of location, the movie just doesn’t come together. The Blu-ray presentation provides solid picture and sound, along with a small collection of deleted material and a quickie featurette as its only extras.
Studio: Anchor Bay
Distributed By: N/A
Video Resolution and Encode: 1080P/AVC
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HDMA
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French
Run Time: 1 Hr. 41 Min.
Package Includes: Blu-ray, DVD, Digital Copy, UltraViolet
Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
Release Date: 03/11/2014
Homefront is one of those movies that can leave the viewer scratching their head wondering what the heck happened in its production. Ostensibly, it’s a throwback to 80s action thrillers like Commando or Cobra, where the good guys are conflicted but really decent people and the bad guys are monsters. The current movie stars Jason Statham as Phil Broker, a former cop trying to lead a quiet life with his daughter in rural Louisiana. The fun starts when Broker’s daughter gets in a fight at school with a bully whose parents are pretty nasty pieces of work. So before you know it, we have an old-fashioned Hatfields/McCoys vendetta going back and forth – except that the locals really don’t know who they’re messing with in Statham. In the 80s and 90s, such a plot would be enough to push Arnold Schwarzenegger or Sylvester Stallone or Steven Seagal to go from simply punching out the bad guys to blowing them up before the final reel of the movie. One could expect at least one or two completely outrageous stunts along the way – say, Schwarzenegger dropping a defenseless bad guy off a cliff after a painfully bad one-liner, or Seagal mercilessly doing mayhem to the poor villains. (It’s not a coincidence that Homefront plays off the same father-daughter dynamic seen in Commando – although I must admit that Statham shows a bit more chemistry with the daughter here than was seen in some really scary shots of Schwarzenegger in the 1985 movie…) This callback to earlier action vehicles seems to be part of what director Gary Fleder (Kiss the Girls, The Express) and writer Stallone are trying to accomplish. However, they also seem to be trying to hint at more substance – what with some attempts to give the local villains a little more empathy and to show the barely restrained brutality of Broker in an unsympathetic light. Sadly, there’s just not enough in the way of substance and simultaneously not very much in the way of action beats. So the movie peters along for an endless 90 minutes before the inevitable climax which somehow feels rushed. Fans of Jason Statham’s action movies, or even of the 80s and 90s model are likely to be disappointed by this movie. Fans of the Phil Broker novels are guaranteed to be disappointed.
The Production Rating: 1/5
SPOILERS: So what went wrong here? We can start with Sylvester Stallone’s unfortunate adaptation of the Chuck Logan novel. Fans of the Phil Broker series will know that Homefront is the most recent installment, published in the mid-2000s, featuring Broker, his wife and daughter as they deal with the ramifications of the daughter’s schoolyard fight with a bully and a local feud escalates into serious business. At the surface level, the movie starts from a similar premise. But Stallone immediately jettisons the element that would have made this situation more interesting – he eliminates the mother, telling the audience in expository dialogue that she’s dead. A more extreme change is done in switching the locale from Glacier Falls, Minnesota to rural Louisiana. (And that’s likely for budgetary reasons, as we’ve seen with the generous tax incentives Louisiana offers production companies.) So instead of chilly scenes of bleak Minnesota, we are instead given scenic views of Louisiana marshes. And we trade one kind of backwoods local villain for another. The problem here is that neither Stallone nor Gary Fleder are able to do much with their location in terms of adding to the atmosphere. A quick look at HBO’s recent True Detective offers the counterpoint – in that case, the creative staff played up their location for all its eerie and dangerous beauty. In Homefront, Louisiana just serves as a scenic backdrop with no real personality. The only notions of complexity the movie provides are in some surprising moments here and there where the evil Klum family show some sympathetic beats, while Statham’s Broker is shown reveling in his brutality when he gets to cut loose. Unfortunately, these hints at depth don’t offer much past the surface, and the story winds up being too thin to even sustain 90 minutes. One would think that the movie would provide a few good action beats to fill the time, but even there, things run short on inspiration. The movie starts with a deceptive police raid and chase that’s over almost before it starts. Once the movie proper starts, a few quick fistfights are followed up by a fast gun battle, and finally by a ridiculous climactic explosion that feels tacked on rather than earned.
MORE SPOILERS: Beyond the issues of writing, pacing and setting, there’s a more serious problem in the casting. James Franco is a fine actor, but he’s badly miscast as “Gator” Bodine, the villain of this piece. There’s frankly not enough menace coming from him to justify his actions, and not enough quirkiness in his character to make Franco’s presence feel right. Kate Bosworth is a bit more interesting in the first half of the movie as the nasty mother of the schoolyard bully, but even her performance is undermined by the mechanics of the plot. We’re meant to believe that she’s tweaking on drugs for much of the movie and bent on a feud against Broker (which she starts), and yet we’re also supposed to believe that she would suddenly have a change of heart and take her son to Broker’s house and try to protect Broker’s daughter. No performance could justify all these 90 degree turns of character, and Bosworth is unable to show the complexity that could make even a couple of them believable. The winner for “Most Miscast Role of the Year” has to go to Winona Ryder, who gets saddled with the thankless role of the villain’s nasty girlfriend. Ryder does what she can here, but the one thought that comes to mind when she pops up onscreen is “What the heck is Winona Ryder doing in this movie???” At no point are Ryder and Franco plausible as a couple, and the casting itself creates a distraction that’s enough to solidly remove the viewer from the movie. Granted, Clancy Brown turns in his usual solid performance as the local sheriff, something he’s been honing lately on Sleepy Hollow. Youngster Izabela Vidovic is actually quite good as Broker’s daughter, showing a mix of toughness and vulnerability. And Jason Statham provides his usual steely take-no-prisoners approach to Broker’s antics, with a couple of moments of genuinely scary viciousness near the end. But the overall mix of characters frankly doesn’t work either as a portrait of this small town or as a series of plot devices to get the audience to the next action beat. This, coupled with the movie’s plotting and pacing issues, is enough to keep things from ever generating much more than tired disappointment.
Homefront has been released simultaneously on Blu-ray and standard definition this past week. The Blu-ray has everything from the standard DVD, and adds high definition picture and sound.
Homefront is presented in a 1080p AVC 2.40:1 transfer (@ an average 33 mbps) that presents the movie in satisfying high definition. On a technical level, this is a solid Blu-ray. The various Louisiana locations are displayed in rich detail, both during daylight and at night.
Video Rating: 4.5/5 3D Rating: NA
Homefront is presented in an English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix in English (@ an average 4.1 mbps, going up to 5.4 during the bigger action moments), which is big and noisy when it needs to be, and atmospheric at other times. Scenes of Broker and his daughter riding through the woods are nicely augmented with surround sound.
Audio Rating: 4/5
The Blu-ray presentation of Homefront comes with a few minutes of deleted material and a single featurette that covers very little ground. The Blu-ray packaging also includes the DVD of the movie.
Special Features Rating: 1/5
Deleted Scenes – (8:38, 1080p) (AVAILABLE BOTH ON DVD AND BLU-RAY) – About 8 ½ minutes of deleted material is presented here in an unchaptered pile. Some of this is additional driving dialogue between Statham and Vidovic, showing that the various car scenes were shot onstage in front of a greenscreen. The final few minutes present an alternate ending past the movie’s vicious punchline – with a denouement that leaves the viewer wondering if Phil Broker really is that stupid, or if he just thinks that all the villains he’s just fought are even stupider than he is.
Standoff – (2:41, 1080p) (AVAILABLE BOTH ON DVD AND BLU-RAY) – This quick featurette mostly consists of clips from the movie, interrupted by really quick soundbites from Jason Statham, James Franco and Sylvester Stallone. Strangely enough, Stallone seems to think he’s written a much more complex character study than he actually has.
DVD Copy – A second disc is included in the package, holding the standard DVD of the movie, presented in standard definition in an anamorphic 2.40:1 picture with Dolby Digital 5.1 sound in English and Spanish (448 kbps). The deleted scenes and the featurette are included. There is also a preview menu, including trailers for End of Watch, Hit & Run, Jobs, The Host, Machete Kills, Side Effects, Killer Elite and The Grey, most of which are Open Road productions as was this one.
Digital Copy – Instructions are included in the packaging for downloading a digital copy of the movie to your laptop or portable device.
Subtitles are available for the film in English, Spanish and French. A full chapter menu is available for the film.
Homefront sadly fails both in its aspirations to be a throwback to 80s and 90s action thrillers and to be a more complex examination of the characters to be found in those movies. Given how far short the movie falls, I can’t even recommend it for rental for the curious. Fans of Jason Statham and Sylvester Stallone are more likely to be disappointed with what they see here. And fans of the Chuck Logan books will have a much more negative reaction.
Overall Rating: 1.5/5
Reviewed By: Kevin EK
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