Director: Taylor Hackford
Runtime: 118 minutes
There’s an energy to Parker in the violence and kinetic action that is, at times, stunning. Yet, somehow the star of the film is pushed to the side by those elements. Action star Jason Statham, seemingly filling the role that used to be occupied by Jackie Chan, has his own considerable charm. He’s also a hit with a lot of women, usually playing the criminal with a conscience. Here, he plays Parker, a man with a code of honor” if you say you’re going to do something, you should do it. “It’s about the principle,” he tells co-star Nick Nolte at one point. However, he also has a justification to stealing: “I don’t steal from people that can’t afford it, and I don’t hurt people that don’t deserve it.” You almost expect him to turn to the camera at some point and tell you he’s going to kill everyone that crosses him as well, but that would be spoiling the fun.
Parker has been brought into a big score by his future father-in-law Hurley (Nolte), and becomes the leader of a five-man crew including: Melander (Michael Chiklis), Carlson (Wendell Pierce), Ross (Clifton Collins, Jr.), and Jake Fernandez (Bobby Cannavale). However, when they double-cross him in an attempt to go after a bigger score and leave him for dead, he returns with vengeance in his heart. When Parker finds out they are targeting a location in West Palm Beach, Florida, he poses as a rich Texan (think of the most generic Texas accent along with a cowboy hat and boots, which garnered laughs from my Dallas audience) who has his eyes set on his former crew’s current house. Simply doing her job is Leslie Rodgers (Jennifer Lopez), a local real estate agent desperate for a big commission to pull her out of a slump. Not wanting to wind up a spinster living with her mother and annoyingly chatty dog, she looks into Parker’s past and finds out his game.
Thus, Leslie becomes a helpful if blundering accomplice because she aids in covering his tracks and points him in the direction of the next probable heist. Complicating things along the way is the fact that one of his former crew member’s is well connected with a big-time criminal in Chicago — in fact, it’s the kid’s uncle. That means Parker must protect his girlfriend Claire (Hurley’s daughter, played by Emma Booth) while also fending off a vicious assassin sent to take him out. Along the way Parker leaves a trail of violence that is no small effort. There’s a running gag of Parker changing clothes and vehicles, often parking somewhere and simply finding the next available vehicle to carjack. Perhaps that’s how you lose law enforcement — I would know nothing of this — but to me it seems like you are leaving bread crumbs all the way to your destination.
Having said that, where the story doesn’t make a terrible amount of sense, a lot of the action and surroundings do. When Parker jumps from a moving vehicle, he doesn’t simply roll around and then pop up. Instead, he’s nearly disabled from his injuries. There’s also notable perspiration to many of the characters, even Parker. We see him get out of a vehicle at one point and his shirt is darkened down the middle of his back from sweat. Again and again this crops up and while it’s nothing major, it’s a running theme and one not often employed — it brings a sense of reality to the film and there’s also a knife through the hand that is truly cringe worthy. Taylor Hackford appears to have stepped away from his days as a director of films with a heavy music-influence and somehow finds himself strapped into the director’s chair of this Statham action vehicle and it’s not clear what he brings to the table.
There’s a lot of threads that don’t do a whole lot, but most of the fat is cut from this nearly two-hour romp. The violence is done with aplomb and there is a logic to most of it. Then there’s the fact that Lopez’s character is convincingly weaved into the story. Though, it would be irresponsible to have the sidekick that’s in over her head not make a few comically bad decisions, so she does. Somehow there’s even a love story in the fold. Parker has some considerable talent behind and in front of the camera, but the film never elevates beyond the B-movie trappings Statham continually finds himself in. Sure, Statham gets some good one-liners in, but there just isn’t much passion here.
Parker is now in wide release.
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