Sunday 22 December 2013

Homefront by Stallone and Chuck Logan

I've always been a bit dismissive of Sylvester Stallone as a script writer. This is largely because of his tendency to re-write people whom I consider to be considerably more formidable talents. Stallone has sought to improve on the work of Joe Eszterhas (F.I.S.T.) and James Cameron (Rambo), two of the greatest screenwriters of all time.

But Stallone himself is not a negligible film writer — after all, his 1978 script for Rocky was nominated for an Oscar and a BAFTA.

I was reminded of this when I saw Homefront, an edgy and exceptional popcorn thriller with a screenplay by Stallone (who produces, but does not appear in the film) based on a novel by Chuck Logan.  

The star of Homefront is Jason Statham. Normally a serviceable leading man in action movies, Statham was recently highly enjoyable in Parker and here is very effective, largely because instead of just being a killing machine he plays a vulnerable father. There is even a scene with his young daughter where we see a glint of a tear in his eye.

But don't worry, that was between beating people up and shooting them.

Homefront is a really superior thriller, though, and much better than its provenance would suggest — the posters make the mistake of invoking the title of the execrable The Expendables. The director of Homefront is Gary Fleder, who has largely worked in TV of late, but previously directed the wonderfully off-the-wall Things to Do in Denver When You're Dead and the Philip K. Dick adaptation Impostor. He does a marvelous job on Homefront, as does cinematographer Theo van de Sande.

The film benefits immeasurably from its beautiful southern bayou locations, a fine score by Mark Isham, and also from a great cast. Kate Bosworth is terrific as a white trash mom, Winona Ryder outstanding as a crank (as opposed to crack) whore and the ever wonderful James Franco is a slimy but likable — and very formidable — villain.

This is a much better picture than I expected. Normally in a movie like this, when a cute little kitten is introduced in the first reel it's so that the bad guy can kill it in the third reel. But Homefront turns out to be a lot less formulaic than that (although the hero's black best buddy does get used as cannon fodder, in the grand tradition).

Great fun, involving, and unexpectedly smart, Homefront does finally fall apart at the end (I wish I had a dollar for every time I've had to say that about a movie) but it remains superior fare, and well worth a look.

(Image credits: all the photos and posters are from Aceshowbiz. It's instructive to compare the different campaigns: the posters of Statham and daughter, with and without gun in hand. And the way his shoulders are draped with the American flag in one version.)

No comments:

Post a Comment