PARKER Review

As it goes every time Jason Statham puts out a film that isn't part of the Transporter or Expendable series we are prone to get a well executed action film that has the chrome domed star doing what he does best: kicking ass and taking names. This is only the first of four films the guy has slated to come out this year and though each of them has to deal with some type of thief, agent, soldier, or bodyguard they will likely each also have a very distinct style to them. You see, the thing about Statham is despite his ability to make total B-movies that have you munching on your popcorn and sipping on your Coke Zero with glee he also has an eye for who he works with and makes sure there is something of a twist with each character type he will undeniably be playing in their film. In his three other films one of them is directed by Gary Felder and co-stars James Franco, Wynona Rider, and Kate Bosworth and was a novel that was adapted into a screenplay by pal Sylvester Stallone. His others include a first time feature from writer Steven Knight (Eastern Promises) as well as one in very early pre-production that re-teams him with his The Mechanic and Expendables 2 director Simon West (Con Air,Tomb Raider). You see, the guy knows what he is doing as he doesn't simply sign up for any throw away piece of action trash that could just as easily go straight to DVD (though some of his less flashy ones have) but instead he keeps a nice flow of consistent work that gives the people what they want from him and does so in a fashion that shows he's reliable and that they can trust in him when they come back for more.

Jason Statham and Jennifer Lopez in Parker.
Based on a series of novels written by Donald E. Westlake Parker has seen the screen several times before but for some reason has never gone by the name of Parker. In different incarnations he has been portrayed by Lee Marvin, Jim Brown, Robert Duvall, Peter Coyote and Mel Gibson but I have unfortunately neither read any of Westlake's novels nor have I seen any of the films adapted from his works that include the Parker character. As the first film to fully embrace the character, name and all, this film is supposed to be based on Flashfire but I've heard hues closer to the The Hunter. It tells a rather typical story of a thief who has an honorable code of ethics that has him not stealing from those who can't afford it and not killing those who don't deserve it. When he is double crossed on a job by a bunch of dishonorable thieves he naturally needs to seek revenge not only to get back his payday but also for the flat out reason he has to let them know you don't mess with Parker. In following their trail Statham's Parker makes his way to Palm Beach, the glamour capitol of the U.S. and wreaks bloody havoc on the town as he seeks to foil the plot of the gang that betrayed him. Here he meets a realtor with divorce issues and money problems by the name of Leslie (Jennifer Lopez) and she too becomes entangled in the jewel heist plot for seemingly no other reason than to take everything but her lingerie off in one scene and develop some type of voice for the audience, but if that is the intent we really don't want to be the Jennifer Lopez of the movie as she is more annoying than she is helpful and as vital to the story as Jason Statham would be in a romantic comedy.

Directed by Oscar winner Taylor Hackford (Ray) Parker is a film that knows what kind of movie it is and it plays very well with the paint by the numbers points in which every action film seemingly needs to hit before wrapping up in a way that still proves no real clarification on how every crazy thing that went down in the movie was squared away so nicely in the end. Hackford is game for the genre as well, he opens with an elaborate robbery at a county fair event that is a guaranteed million for the guys. Statham is dressed as a priest and his team that has been put together by his girlfriends father (an underused Nick Nolte) and includes the likes of Michael Chiklis and Clifton Collins Jr. are set to go. They go through with Parker's neatly organized plan with only one small glitch due to a cocky and entitled young guy named August (Michah Hauptman) who you know will get his later. Watching the plan unfold Hackford nicely paces each step and keeps the audience entertained throughout while allowing the character definition in at the same time. While many aspects of the film are either unnecessary or underdeveloped I will say that Hackford at least gets a good sense of whose side we are on and why going very early on and with that characterization and code in place early he is free to capture the action scenes and fight sequences in which Statham brutally demonstrates why he is the best at what he does with flair and confidence. If you've seen the advertisements for the film you can see they are going with a very retro kind of style to differentiate it from any other Statham actioner. While this tone doesn't really carry over to the feature there are plenty of distractions such as the use of Palm Beach as a character, the wonderful supporting cast, and the bloody brutality with which the fight scenes are infused that keep our eyes from wandering or our minds from wondering.

Michael Chiklis plays the principal baddie in this latest Statham actioner.
Statham has yet to become what I have always feared he would be and that is to action movies what Adam Sandler now is to comedies. He has still yet to drown in an unforgivable mess and delivers films I find hard to defend critically but cannot help but enjoy when I watch them in the theater. Whether it be Statham wearing disguises, Statham taking part in a heist, Statham seeking revenge, Statham wearing a classy suit or tons of fist fights Parker literally has every single one of those things and more. What it doesn't have is any reason for Lopez to really be in the film at all. She never ends up being the love interest despite obviously being set up as one in so many ways but we are only rewarded with Parker staying true to his code as he returns to girlfriend Amber (Alyshia Ochse) who is mysterious in that she is there for him when he needs her and disappears for the remainder of the film, apparently to leave J. Lo just enough time to fall for the guy and then get rejected. There is also the case of Patti LuPone showing up as Lopez's crazy Latino mother who falls immediately in love with Parker even when her first impression is him bleeding profusely all over her balcony. It is hard to complain though, really, as Parker clearly isn't a film with grand ambitions, but one that aspires to meet the basic elements of every other movie Statham has made before. There is a humility to the guy though as he puts on a horrible southern accent and at the same time can maintain his credibility as a human being even after throwing a guy from a high level hotel balcony to his death with no remorse. He is the guy you don't want to mess with but the friend that you would love to have on your team. That is the magic of Statham and that is why he keeps getting asked to make movies and why people continue to see them.