I will tell you what I like about Homefront: nothing.

I will also, however, tell you what I like about REVIEWING Homefront, which is that the film offers a perfectly gift-wrapped opportunity to offer up thought pieces on the career and star persona of its leading man, Jason Statham. This is not a subject that automatically recommends itself as a rich topic for conversation, given that by no imaginably useful rubric is Statham a good actor, and films cater with exhausting precision to a very compact, self-selecting audience. But he's interesting as all hell, in part exactly because he has a very clearly-defined fanbase that is probably never going to expand: teaming up with Sylvester Stallone in the blockbuster ensemble actioner The Expendables didn't do it, showing up as the villain in the future Fast & Furious 7 probably won't do it even setting aside that film's imperiled state. Playing Katniss Everdeen might have done it, but that boat has sailed.

And yet, despite having almost no actual fans, people who will come to see a movie demonstrably for the fact that he's in it, Statham is among the most famous action movie figures out there right now. Famous and even beloved, if the internet buzz around Fas7 was to be believed. There is no earthly reason for this. Unlike Arnold Schwarzenegger, he doesn't have catch-phrases or an easily-digested persona (quick, do a Jason Statham impression! Ooh, sorry, that was more Ray Winstone); unlike Chow Yun-fat, he isn't a legitimately talented actor; unlike Jean-Claude Van Damme, he isn't exceptionally physically dextrous. He doesn't have the sense of humor or imagination of a Jackie Chan, but he also doesn't have the comically severe absence of those qualities of a Steven Seagal.

This brings us back to Homefront, because in this film, more than in anything I've seen, Statham isn't anything at all. He's just an object: an object made of meat and sinew and sarcasm with a British accent. The film offers us a perhaps unique chance to witness Statham stripped to his absolute barest essential elements, devoid of the high-energy gimmickry of Crank, or the sleek commercialism of The Transporter. It is devoid of personalising elements: there is Statham, there is the sweet dear child he is protecting (for if there is a Statham Shtick, corroded-over soulfulness that wants to protect women and children is the nugget of it), there is a drug ring that need to be blown up. There is nothing else, even with the freakishly overqualified James Franco playing Gator Bodine, the head drug-maker who receives the brunt of Statham's ire. Or whatever Statham is called - "Phil Broker", say the credits, and while I can dimly recall the "Broker", I am quite sure I never noticed "Phil".

Broker is an ex-DEA agent, introduced in a sting operation that finds Statham trotting out a vile American accent while wearing a deeply silly shoulder-length wig as part of a sting operation; he is so unnerved by the death of a young criminal in this event that he swears off crimefighting, taking his daughter Maddy (Izabela Vidovic, who is honestly pretty great) to live where his late wife, her mother, grew up, in the heart of Deliverance County, Louisiana. Here, the Brokers city ways and tendency to ruthlessly win fights that they didn't start puts them on the outs with the whole town, but especially Cassie Klum (an unrecognisably trashy Kate Bosworth), who can't stand that Phil and Maddy embarrassed her quisling husband (Marcus Hester) and pudgy son (Austin Craig). And so does she invite her brother, Gator, to take some home invasion thriller revenge on the Brokers, though when he discovers that Broker is an ex-Fed, and the particular ex-Fed who killed a great druglord's son, he sees meth-colored stars in his eyes, and hatches a plan to use Broker as a pawn in his creation of a drug empire in miniature with his junkie girlfriend Sheryl Marie Mott (a recognisably trashy Winona Ryder). Faced with hatred, violence, mind games, and existential threats to his daughter's life, Broker becomes incrementally more pissed than he started off, and goes on a beating-spree.

It's almost astounding how there is not anything that resembles inspiration of any sort, not in the frenzied and anonymous directing by Gary Fleder, nor in the screenplay by Sylvester Stallone himself, also producing. Quite a jolly buddy project, and not at all the attempt to groom Statham as a neo-Stallone that one might have anticipated; there's none of the author's character or stylistic flourishes to speak of in a screenplay that really could not be more precisely generic. The film barely seems to be happening, even as you're watching it; the plot is too foreordained in every detail to be genuinely gripping, and the action far too shoddy in both conception and (especially!) execution, which is even worse: nobody expects an action movie to have a sinuous narrative, but we do expect them to have great, exciting, visually coherent action. You might even say that's definitionally the point. But Homefront is an even more complete failure of action than of story, as Fleder and cinematographer Theo van Sande and particular editor Padraic McKinley leave the whole thing a juttery, muddy, choppy mess of kinetic moments that don't add up.

And so, what are we left with? Statham, pure and direct Statham. He growls and throws out quips, only the dialogue isn't snazzy enough to earn that name; he brawls and menaces in his thuggish way, except the stakes are infinitely low and the blocking too insipid for the brawling or thuggery to have any kind of weight to them. The movie is about, in essence, looking at and listening to Statham absent any particularities worth talking about. All that's left are the elements of a star personality untethered from character which is fascinating in that it allows us to really isolate what, in the absence of that one career-defining role, the Terminator or the Rambo, Statham "means": unsmiling competence shading into arrogance, a pitbull-like ferocity in defending those he's meant to protect, an inability to ever even pretend that he's in real danger. But not good, oh no, not in the least. Even from the perspective of Stathamery, this is a gigantic nothing of a film: nothing enjoyable happens, nothing exciting gets the blood racing. It's the broadest narrative tropes presented in the most mechanical way, and it reduces its star to a posable figurine representing all of his better films. It is the hollowest of hollow shells.