starring: Jason Statham, Jennifer Lopez and Michael Chiklis
written by: John J. McLaughlin
directed by: Taylor Hackford
MPAA: Rated R for strong violence, language throughout and brief sexual content/nudity
Parker, the titular character in Donald Westlake’s classic series of crime novels has been called many things in movies: Macklin, Stone, Porter, Georges, and most famously, Walker (as played by Lee Mavin in Point Blank. But he’s never been known as Parker before, because Westlake simply wouldn’t allow it. But since he passed away several years ago, Hollywood decided to go ahead and just use the Parker name for the first time on film. That’s a lot of film and book history to stand up to. So how did they do?
Jason Statham stars as Parker, a criminal who “steals only from people who can afford it.” The movie opens oddly, with music suggesting a horror film, before we’re introduced to him and a band of criminals on a caper at the Ohio State Fair. They steal a bunch of money and begin their getaway, but of course they couldn’t possibly get away easily, now could they? What sort of movie would that be? So Parker, left for dead, has to pick up the pieces, get what’s owed to him, and, of course, get revenge on the people who wronged him. Yeah, it’s that kind of movie.
Statham has a certain kind of charisma that completely hides the fact that he just doesn’t do much acting at all. He looks all manly and gruff and talks with a British accent, doing cool things and having women fawn over him. (As my fiancee said about him, “Oh, the hot guy?”) And this movie is no different, as Statham’s Parker is the object of lust of not just one but two women, one of them a wise ditz played by Jennifer Lopez as if she were in a romantic comedy.
I don’t have a lot to say about the quality of this movie other than that it was “solid.” By this, I mean, it has exactly what you’re looking for in this kind of film: a guy getting by on smarts, a guy getting by on toughness, a double cross here and there, Statham dressed as a priest, some clever caper action, a fair amount of blood and gore, a few laughs here and there, and finally, plenty of appearances by “that guy,” which in this case is Clifton Collins, Jr, Michael Chilkis, Wendell Pierce, Bobby Cannavale and, ummm, Patti LuPone. Nick Nolte is also in the movie as Parker’s wise old friend, and he manages to grunt effectively during his scenes. What the movie doesn’t have, thankfully, is a bunch of stupid random plot twists that make you say, “Oh, fuck this.” There’s only one or two of those.
This is not a must see by any stretch, but if you enjoy slow burner crime dramas with bits of action and comedy, and think Jason Statham is a hot guy, you’ll find plenty to enjoy in Parker. As for whether or not it earns its honor of being the first film to use the character’s actual name? I’m voting for Lee Marvin. Is it too late to go back and fix that one?
To enjoy more stories of the character of Parker, I strongly recommend Darwyn Cooke’s series of Parker graphic novels.