If you could look at my cinema history the same way geologists look at the fossil record, you would notice a few distinct eras that were shaped by specific influences. My earliest stages were (naturally) shaped by my dad, whose taste was reasonably broad but which definitely leaned towards monster movies. My college years were shaped by people like my friend Brian who had more of an interest in world cinema and who helped push me past my blockbuster-centric youth. My two most recent strata are probably the years I spent trying to watch every best picture winner and the post-Oscars obsession cool-down, which is where I am now.
But the strata that’s relevant for a discussion of Homefront is my high school years. This was my most action movie heavy period, and it’s not just because I was a teenage boy and that’s what teenage boys like. (Though that didn’t hurt.) No, the real influence on this period was my friend Ricky. He and I used to watch a lot of dumb crap together – we spent years going to wrestling shows together, and having Jean Claude Van Damme marathons, and one time we turned Hot Shots into a drinking game where you had to drink every time slapstick violence occurred. I would probably have done a lot of those things on my own, but paying actual money to see Mission Impossible 2 in a theater? That was Ricky’s influence.
When I got a little bit older I realized something about my relationship with Ricky: we talked about pop culture because we had a hard time talking openly about ourselves. I think it was something weird we inherited from our dads, both of whom were sweet natured guys but who grew up in a time when men were expected to be emotionally unexpressive. I think we saw their restraint when we were young and then started to subconsciously imitate it as we got older. A lot of the time that we were talking about these absolutely generic movies we were trying to say something about who we were as individuals, but with all of our own personality displaced so it was safer for us.
As the years have gone on and I’ve spent less and less time with Ricky – who unlike me decided to stay in Nashville – and I’ve gotten farther and farther away from that. Now it seems so odd to me that I could have once watched a film like Homefront and seen myself in it. The version of me that watched Homefront earlier this week just had no way to get into the story, much less some way to use it as a conversational bridge with someone else. Even though it’s plot was familiar, there was something alien about it to me.
Jason Statham knows how to portray a tough cop. James Franco knows how to portray a weird Meth dealer. All the stunt people know how to die convincingly, and all the effects people know how to make an explosion. But I don’t know how to get back to being the guy who looked at a film like this and saw himself in it. And honestly I don’t know that I want to know that.
Winner: The Cat