While lately movies made from kids and teen books have been all the rage and able to develop as franchises, adult-oriented fare hasn’t been as lucky. Last year gave us the very disappointing Alex Cross and Jack Reacher, which likely stopped any plans for follow-ups dead in their tracks. Now Phil Broker comes to the screen in Homefront, and although not renaming the film after the character was a good start, more wrong choices were made than right.
Here, Broker (Jason Statham) is a DEA agent who resigns when an operation ends with a suspect (Linds Edwards) receiving the Amadou Diallo treatment. Two years after that incident, he and his daughter Maddy (Izabela Vidovic) move to a Louisiana town where the late Mrs. Broker grew up. One day at school, classmate Teddy Klum (Austin Craig) provokes her into a fight and gets his clock cleaned. The school calls in Broker and the boy’s parents Jimmy (Marcus Hester) and Cassie Klum (Kate Bosworth). Jimmy tries to attack Broker but his reflexes are still sharp and he easily counters.
For some reason this really gets to Cassie, so she enlists the help of Gator Bodine (James Franco), her brother and the town’s meth dealer, Cassie herself being an addict. Gator breaks in and in the process of abducting a cat and stuffed animal, comes across something infinitely more valuable: Broker’s file. Familiar with the players in Broker’s final case, Gator has his sidekick/lover Sheryl Marie Mott (Winona Ryder) reach out to biker leader Danny T (Chuck Zito), imprisoned by Broker and the father of the suspect killed. Gator plans to spill the beans on Broker in exchange for state-wide control of the meth trade.
I have not read the novel by Chuck Logan, but a look on Amazon’s page for it shows this synopsis:
Nina Pryce, one of a select few women attached to the Army’s elite Delta Force, is on an extended medical leave, recovering from a firefight with a terrorist that claimed the lives of two teammates and left her badly injured. While her body has begun to heal, her psychic wounds are still raw; unable to care for her daughter, repair the damage to her marriage, or face the fact that her military career is over, she and her family take refuge in a remote Minnesota town. But trouble seems to follow in her wake, and what begins as a schoolyard fight between her daughter and a bullying classmate soon escalates into a terrifying standoff with a clan of backwoods methamphetamine “cookers” and a hitman bent on revenge against Nina’s husband Phil Broker, a former undercover cop. Logan expertly balances the tough and the tender, as Broker attempts to nurse his wife back to health, protect eight-year-old Kit from the effects of her mother’s post-traumatic depression, and guard those he loves from the legacy of his own violent past.
While the second half of that matches up, that first half, the one that actually sounds interesting, is completely MIA. Heck, simply having that as a story would make a compelling picture in its own right, certainly moreso than what we ended up with. It’s curious too that the setting was changed for no good reason. Why the needless hixploitation?
But what did make it to the screen is still incomplete and underdeveloped. In Sheryl’s negations with the biker, they make it quite clear that they will not relinquish distribution, but this leads nowhere. Gator learning of this and turning on them – and thereby proving to be the true threat to Broker – is what should have ensued. Another noticeable place is with Cassie and her addiction. They go out of their way to show that Jimmy and Gator worry for her, with the latter accusing the former of not doing a proper job as a husband. However, this is neither followed up on nor given any prior hint towards.
The plot holes are as glaring as they come. Halfway through the movie, it becomes established that Broker keeps in contact with the DEA and reaches out to them when he starts to learn of Gator. But later on when he inevitably realizes his cover’s been blown and is in serious danger, he doesn’t call them. He has plenty of time to do so, but doesn’t. Is this supposed to make any sense?
But the action is pretty satisfying and the actors are more than serviceable. Statham continues to hold his mettle as an action star and Vidovic shows promise. But it’s Franco, fresh from a similar wild-card part in Spring Breakers, who is the most fun to watch.
Director Gary Fleder coincidentally is also the director of Kiss the Girls, the first – and best – of the Alex Cross films. It’s really too bad he couldn’t do for Broker what he did for Cross. Then again, given that the most intriguing elements of the story were excised, it’s just as well.