It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
Sylvester Stallone can write entertaining formula action scripts like a demon, but he often hands them over to hack directors who don't know how to extract the pulp and the juice from them. On that score, "Homefront" is better than average. Gary Fleder directs Stallone's adaptation of the Chuck Logan novel like he gives a damn. Maybe too much of a damn: This is one loud, lip-smacking movie. The opening action sequence is a roaring collision of Paul Greengrass hyper-realism and Road Runner physics involving enough ammo to silence the Lord's Resistance Army, plus an undercover narc Jason Statham on an acrobatic Harley, his shoulder-length mullet wig flapping on the breeze.
When the smoke clears, Phil Broker (Statham) is retired, sick of the narc's double-life, and off to a tiny Louisiana town to start fresh with his tween daughter Maddy (Izabela Vidovic). We wait patiently for the local redneck meth-heads to start messing with him, as promised in the movie's trailer. When Maddy takes down a schoolyard bully, his mother (Kate Bosworth), tweaking on meth, pushes her weakling husband (Marcus Hester) to seek revenge. When Statham puts the poor guy down on the blacktop, a whole gang of greasy losers come looking for trouble.
Fleder, who is a pretty standard button-masher as an action director, actually shows infectious relish and nuance in depicting Statham’s slow return to his violent ways. It’s the psychology that counts: We’ve all been there, tested and prodded constantly by some unreasonable, relentless fool who won’t recognize sincere attempts at peacemaking. Statham’s discomfort at having to extend the olive branch when he’d rather jam it in the other guy’s windpipe is the film's most suspenseful stunt.
Fleder also draws a moving and believable father-daughter relationship from the story’s widower-dad cliche. The most exciting shots in the movie are subtle glances between Broker and Maddy, communicating in a shorthand that only two people who’ve suffered and survived a colossal loss together could decode. In a movie where every shove, kick and door slam sounds like ten cannons, this patch of humanity is a small victory.