Movie Review: “Parker”

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Jason Statham gets the chance to do a whole bunch of Jason Statham things in “Parker,” a very violent crime film that’s neither the best or worst of Statham-being-Statham flicks.

The film is a standout crime thriller at the beginning and end, but takes some ill-advised, not-very-interesting detours in its middle third.

“Parker” is based on a character created by novelist Donald E. Westlake, which was already played on screen by Lee Marvin in 1967’s “Point Blank” and Mel Gibson in 1999’s “Payback,” perhaps best known, according to lore, as the movie where Gibson fired the director and installed his own hairdresser as a figurehead auteur. This version was directed by Taylor Hackford, whose long resume boasts everything from “An Officer and a Gentleman” to “The Devil’s Advocate” to “Ray.”

The film gets off to a dynamite start, with a pretty awesome heist sequence set during the Ohio State Fair that involves fire, livestock, gun-toting clowns and Statham dressed as a priest. But after the other members of his crew (Michael Chiklis, Wendell Pierce, Micah A. Hauptman) abruptly turn on him and leave him for dead, Statham spends the rest of the film out for very violent revenge. In this he’s assisted by his nondescript, frequently nude girlfriend (Emma Booth) and her father Nick Nolte, now obese, red-faced, and speaking as if he’s attempting to recover from a stroke.

“Parker” leapfrogs from Ohio to New Orleans, before ending up for its entire second half in luxurious Palm Beach for another huge heist. So we’re introduced to Jennifer Lopez, as an area realtor who helps Statham.

Lopez isn’t exactly bad in the role, but her character – a financially insecure high-end realtor- seems like she’s from another movie, and the movie gets seriously bogged down in her story in its middle section. I’m also not exactly sure why the girlfriend and the real estate agent had to be two different characters. Meanwhile, there’s Patti LuPone playing Lopez’s mom, with an incongruous Cuban accent, although the kitschy decoration of her home is quite impressive.

Despite the Westlake pedigree, the Miami sequences have Elmore Leonard’s influence all over them,  and the ending has a lot in common with that of the Leonard-derived “Out of Sight,” right down to a third act showdown during a heist, between the protagonist and his former partners, which is strategically interrupted by J. Lo.

“Out of Sight” is the one truly great film of Lopez’s career, and not only for that amazingly erotic love scene between her and George Clooney. But here, we instead get a horrifying scene in which Statham makes her strip naked, for seemingly no other reason than so the audience gets to see the actress’ famous butt. That scene is totally out of place and frankly sort of creepy.

Statham, it should go without saying, is very convincing as a mostly silent, ruthlessly efficient thief and killer. Michael Chiklis is good as the main antagonist, keeping the baldness and cold-bloodedness from his Shield days but adding lots of menace, not to mention girth. Hauptman is memorable as a cowardly bad guy, but the film makes serious misuse of Pierce (The Wire‘s Bunk), who’s on screen a lot but only has about two or three lines.

“Parker” has some good moments but isn’t likely to crack the pantheon on the best Statham flicks.

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