Still, a little weird can be a good thing, and thanks to Franco's gonzo villain, "Homefront" ends up being a lot more entertaining than Statham's last few solo projects. From a screenplay originally written by (and for) Sylvester Stallone, the movie stars Statham as Phil Broker, a former DEA agent who moves to rural Louisiana with his young daughter after the death of his wife, and unwittingly starts a blood feud with Franco's Gator Bodine, Raysville, Louisiana's very own meth kingpin.
And while Jason Statham vs. James Franco might not seem like a fair fight, it turns out to be a whole lot closer than you'd think. Here's how the two unlikely adversaries stack up in "Homefront."
With its vague single-word title, flashy editing and vengeance-heavy premise, "Homefront" is the definition of a generic action movie. And as this generation's Charles Bronson, Statham has done so many of those by now, he could do a part like this in his sleep (which hopefully will be the plot of "Crank 3"). But don't underestimate Franco. Besides boasting more firepower than the combined cast of "The Expendables 2" in "Spring Breakers," he's fought off the apocalypse in "This Is The End," played a serial killer on "General Hospital," and don't forget the time he tried to kill our friendly neighborhood Spider-Man.
Making an Entrance:
Statham pulls some sweet moves, like single-handedly taking out a biker gang in the film's opening sequence, but undercover or not, there's no way he doesn't lose points for that awful mullet. Especially compared to Franco's entrance, who we first see taking out his "competition" -- a.k.a. a bunch of kids cooking backwater meth. Sure, it's less bad-ass than tangling with bikers, but Gator still makes a strong first impression.
Family is a key theme in "Homefront," depending on how much credit you want to give Sly's script. But between Broker and his daughter, the biker crime boss looking to avenge his son's death, and a methed-out (and awesome) Kate Bosworth forcing Gator to stick up for the Bodine family honour, the movie basically comes down to parents trying to do right by their kids -- in extremely violent, unnecessary and misguided ways. So it's no surprise that Statham's Broker will do just about anything to protect his daughter, even though having Jason Statham as your movie dad, legal guardian, or even just your limo driver is pretty much a guarantee you'll be shot at and/or kidnapped. Gator, meanwhile, is much more cold-blooded when it comes to dealing with his methhead sister, though he does give her a family discount. Still, the lesson is clear: business and family don't mix.
As a gruff widower, Broker is destined to be set up with the first eligible female in his daughter's social circle, which in this case is the school psychologist. But while Rachelle Lefevre's Susan helps give Broker (and more importantly, the audience) the lowdown on Raysville's social graces, she's got nothing on Winona Ryder's Sheryl, a former biker chick and Gator's better -- OK, more like worse, half. As it turns out, Sheryl also gives way better life advice.
He might not look like much, but Gator's got the tattoos and the crazy factor going for him, and crazy counts for something, judging from the way the citizens of Raysville fear him. But Broker? He's the kind of guy who can kick ass with his hands literally tied behind his back.
In order to do some digging on Gator, Broker has to call in favours from his old coworkers at the DEA and canvass the locals. But Gator's methods are far more impressive. Faced with a stack of storage boxes at the Broker homestead, Gator is able to instantly pick out the box containing the former fed's top-secret case files, and grab exactly the right file on the first try. That's not just good detective work, that's "The Mentalist" good.
When it comes right down to it, the trouble in "Homefront" all starts because of a playground scuffle. Gator's so-called "Southern justice" involves breaking into the Brokers' house, kidnapping their cat and slashing their tires. Broker's way of diffusing the situation involves apologizing to the offended parties, going to talk to Gator man-to-man, and when all else fails, lots of punching. There's something to be said for being straightforward.
Gator may be the big bad druglord here, but if he's playing checkers, Broker's playing chess, and he's thinking a good ten steps ahead, including one trap set up so ridiculously far in advance that everyone -- Broker included -- forgets all about it. That has Gator left reacting instead of plotting, which makes him increasingly unpredictable. In other words, get ready for the last half hour of "Homefront" to make absolutely no logical sense.
Weapon of Choice:
If you don't bring a knife to a gun fight, then you definitely don't bring an Oscar-nominated actor to a Jason Statham fight. So "Homefront" wisely has Franco's Gator contract out a lot of his dirty work to his henchmen and some revenge-hungry bikers. It's a smart move, because when the two finally do go mano-a-mano, it ends about as well as you'd think it would.
Final Tally: It's a close matchup, but turns out that when Jason Statham and James Franco fight, we all win.
"Homefront" is now playing in theatres.