Don’t believe what you’ve heard (Rotten Tomatoes, anyone?) This is the best Jason Statham flick since The Transporter. After several disappointing spins as The Mechanic and various incarnations of Crank, Statham had semi-Statham-like performances in Killer Elite and Redemption/Hummingbird. But now, strange as it is to see him playing a father figure (c’mon, he is 46), he returns to the screen as Chuck Logan’s DEA agent Phil Broker. And, as you might expect from the title, he goes all Bryan Mills/Liam Neeson on the meth heads who would do his nine-year-old daughter harm.
After infiltrating and capturing a biker gang running meth in New Orleans, and mourning the unrelated death of his wife, Broker retreats to the backwater territory of Rayville, La. When his daughter (newcomer Izabela Vidovic) is bullied by a local redneck’s son, she responds with the skills that he taught her, setting in motion a series of events that brings vengeful bikers scurrying toward his tranquil life. (Obviously, we wouldn’t expect his young daughter to “take” it from the bullies, but we are certainly led to believe that the Broker family justice is swift… and on the excessive side.
The boy’s mother, Cassie Bodine (Kate Bosworth), watches Broker take down her good-for-nothing husband, and unleashes her powerful (locally) brother, “Gator” Bodine (James Franco), on the Broker family. But while Broker takes the advice of school psychologist Susan Hatch (Rachel Lefevre) and plays nice with the Bodines, Gator has alerted the big city meth heads to Broker’s location via his girlfriend (Winona Ryder, the weak link in this acting chain). Cyrus (Frank Grillo) is dispatched with a team of killers to take down both Brokers, who converge on said ‘home front’. The tension mounts thanks to the moody music of Mark Isham, and the balance of the calm Statham and the twitchy Franco, rising to a crescendo that’s expected.
What’s not expected is the way that the Brokers’ goodness, thanks in large part to the advice they receive, changes the attitudes of the people around them. It’s not their violence, or their self-preservation, but their actual kindness that ultimately affects how the story plays out. Sure, this is a cool Statham action thriller where the violence is a necessity, but it’s curious that the film actually explores whether our violence actually causes more violence, whether violence itself can break the cycle. “Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that,” said one of the world’s most notable pacifists (MLK, Jr.) Homefront isn’t pacifistic but it does seem more self-aware about how far we can get fighting violence with more violence, and asking us to consider what example our violence sets for our children.
Sure, most of us will never find ourselves in the Louisiana bayou waiting for a showdown with eight gunmen. But we can choose violence or not everyday, in our words, in our driving, in our instruction to our children about how to do with bullies on the playground, etc. And at the end of the day, we need to recognize that our society moves forward in the same manner that we instruct our children, because they are always watching, whether we recognize it or not.