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Cracker Barrel: 'Homefront:' the movie

Older readers of this column may remember a fellow named Chuck Logan, who worked for the Echo shortly after the paper’s inception. Back then, he earned his keep as a graphic artist, dreaming up wild cartoons, pasting up page layouts and hundreds of ads, and supplying a valuable mix of intelligent insight, hard work and diabolic humor. In the process we became fast friends.

From the Echo, Logan moved on to the St. Paul Pioneer Press, where he worked for nearly 20 years and where, after hours, he began to write fiction. His first thriller, “Hunter’s Moon,” was published by HarperCollins in 1996, followed in subsequent years by “The Price of Blood,” “The Big Law,” “Absolute Zero,” “Vapor Trail” and “After the Rain.”

Then he started work on a novel titled “Homefront,” set in the imagined north woods town of Glacier Falls, Minn., and by way of background research came up to Pequot Lakes and worked with our crew laying stone. In the process he made friends with a young Ojibwe worker nicknamed Teedo, and proceeded to create a character in the book with the same name.

“Homefront” came out in 2005, and Chuck’s agent was contacted by Sylvester Stallone, who purchased an option on the movie rights to the story, thus starting what became a rollercoaster ride of emotions over the next several years. Each time the option neared its expiration date, hope that a movie might ever transpire would fade, only to be revived when Stallone would renew the option.

Finally, in 2011, the option was exercised, and Stallone began writing a screenplay. When word got out that Stallone was moving the setting of the story from northern Minnesota to Louisiana, and in the process recasting the character of Teedo from Indian to African American and making several other changes to the book, Logan was asked for his reaction.

He said it was kind of like selling a car: You put the movie rights on the market and if somebody buys them, he owns them, at which point your control over them stops.

Excitement began to build, however, as roles for the movie were cast. Jason Statham fills the lead as Phil Broker, former DEA undercover agent, now living in quiet anonymity in order to protect his young daughter from potential acts of revenge against himself.

James Franco is Gator, a violent meth dealer who decides to use his seductive girlfriend, played by Winona Ryder, to expose Broker to a fearsome motorcycle gang in return for their help in distributing his product. Gator’s emotionally troubled sister, Cassie, is ably portrayed by Kate Bosworth.

Last week my wife and I drove down to Roseville for a special pre-release showing of the finished product, and came away impressed. Stallone changed several details of the book, and morphed it into a nonstop, slam-bam, expletive-filled explosion of action, but the core story of a father fighting to protect his family shines through, exerting a powerful grip on the viewer.

Directed by Gary Fleder, “Homefront” is rated R and is scheduled for nationwide release on Nov. 27. But readers should be forewarned: The movie version of Logan’s story is not for the faint of heart.

Copyright 2013 by Craig Nagel