Vigilante justice in the deep South, a London safecracker comes home and mobster carnage in France -Tom Leins reviews this week’s biggest DVDs.
Following the death of his wife, former drug enforcement officer Phil Broker (Jason Statham, The Transporter) moves to a small town I Louisiana with his young daughter, hoping to give her a better life. So begins Homefront (Lionsgate), a typically violent slab of Statham mayhem.
After a schoolyard conflict involving his daughter spirals out of control, Broker finds himself on a collision course with local meth-kingpin Gator Bodine (James Franco, Spring Breakers), the uncle of the boy who his daughter got in a scuffle with. What starts out as a tit-for-tat feud, soon takes on a sinister quality, and when Broker’s true identity is leaked to a notorious biker gang he once infiltrated, he is forced to wage a brutal one man war on the town’s criminal fraternity.
Adapted -by Sylvester Stallone no less -from the novel of the same name by Vietnam veteran Chuck Logan, Homefront is part of a series of Phil Broker books, and represents Statham’s latest attempt at kick-starting a new action franchise. After last year’s unwieldy but entertaining Parker, which saw Statham resurrect the iconic Richard Stark anti-hero of the same name, Homefront is a far less complicated affair, and its lone tough guy narrative could have been ripped straight out of an 80s Stallone movie.
The reliably off-kilter James Franco adds depth to the backwoods bad-guy role , but Statham is the star of the show, pummelling his way through a series of bozos, meth-chefs and bikers. It may lack sophistication -and indeed surprises -but Homefront is an enjoyably trashy B-movie thriller that Statham fans will lap up.
Dom Hemingway (Lionsgate), played by Jude Law (Sherlock Holmes) is a larger-than-life safecracker, back on the London streets after a twelve-year stint in jail. Determined to reclaim what he is owed for keeping his mouth shut inside, Dom heads to the south of France with his flamboyant, long-suffering best friend Dickie (Richard E. Grant, Withnail and I), only to clash with suave crime boss Mr Fontaine (Demian Bichir, A Better Life). Dom’s rampant ego and excessive boozing set in motion a deadly chain of events, and to compound his problems, upon his return to England he struggles to reconnect with his estranged grown-up daughter Evelyn (Emilia Clarke, Game of Thrones), and her family.
Before drifting into TV work, American writer-director Richard Shepard helmed offbeat Pierce Brosnan/Greg Kinnear drama The Matador back in 2005. The two movies have many parallels, but Dom Hemingway lacks the earlier movie’s subtlety, replacing it with a brash, shouty approach that is likely to prove off-putting to viewers of a sensitive disposition. Jude Law has a great time as Dom, even if the movie gives off a wearying try-hard vibe for long stretches. Comparisons to Sexy Beast have been drawn, but Dom Hemingway lacks the earlier movie’s sense of purpose, and is far too pleased with its own warped sense of humour to rank as a Brit-gangster classic. That said, with an appealingly brisk run-time and some enjoyably depraved dialogue, the film is not without its charms.
In action-comedy The Family (Entertainment One) ex-mafia boss Giovanni Manzoni (Robert De Niro, Goodfellas) is moved to rural France under the witness protection programme, after snitching on his old associates back in the United States. Given new identities as the ‘Blake’ family, Fred (De Niro), his wife Maggie (Michelle Pfeiffer, Married To The Mob) and their two children Belle (Dianna Agron, Glee) and Warren (John D’Leo) struggle to adapt to the French way of life, and it isn’t long before their old ways of dealing with trouble start to attract the attentions of some very violent men from their old neighbourhood.
With paper-thin characterisation, a weirdly lazy script and a shop-soiled pre-Sopranos vision of mob life, The Family is a clumsy, tiresome mess that strikes a series of hollow notes throughout. The gleeful sadism and tongue-in-cheek humour are odd bedfellows, with the movie seemingly desperate to earn its stripes as a ‘dark comedy’. Much has been made of Robert De Niro’s lazy trampling of his own legacy, but the real villain here is Luc Besson, who delivers one of the worst movies of his directorial career. De Niro puts in a passable performance, as does Michelle Pfeiffer, but they are given little of substance to work with. A typically hangdog Tommy Lee Jones sports a look of world-weary bemusement throughout. I imagine many viewers will share the sensation