Directed by Taylor Hackford.
Starring Jason Statham, Jennifer Lopez, Michael Chiklis, Clifton Collins Jr., Wendell Pierce and Bobby Cannavale.
A thief with a unique code of professional ethics is double-crossed by his crew and left for dead. Assuming a new disguise and forming an unlikely alliance with a woman on the inside, he looks to hijack the score of the crew’s latest heist.
I like a good crime film. The kind with disreputable people in a perpetual state of double cross stabbing each other in the back for large sums of blood money. Richard Stark’s Parker is the kind of cold, calculating criminal that makes for great literary fiction. The character has made the leap to film a few times, most recently in the 1999 Mel Gibson film Payback. Now the character has been resuscitated again by Jason Statham in the action/thriller Parker.
First off, can we go ahead and stop naming movies after the lead characters? This trend is growing more cloying. Sure, it sometimes works on movies like Forrest Gump or Fletch. Dramas and comedies mostly. But it doesn’t seem to be very effective for thrillers. Lately it seems like Hollywood’s laziest trademark with uninspiring titles like Alex Cross, John Carter, and Jack Reacher. Parker is a crap name for a movie. Fortunately, it’s a pretty average movie so the mediocre title doesn’t really detract too much from the overall product. Generic title. Generic movie.
The last incarnation of the character was at least smart enough to name it Payback. That’s a pithy title. In one word it tells you everything. It encapsulates the purpose of the movie and the driving motivation of the character. What the hell does ‘Parker‘ tell you? It tells you the name of the lead character. Here’s a hint. If you’re trying to get an audience excited about your new thriller, use a verb instead of a name.
Parker (Jason Statham) is a career criminal who pulls off a heist. The crew he’s running with wants him to roll their earnings into a bigger heist. Parker decides he’d rather just take his cut and leave. They decide if he’s not going to be a team player then they might as well shoot him in the face. The opening few minutes tell you everything about this movie: It is idiotically simple and all logic and common sense have been abandoned. Even the earliest scenes seem to eschew logic with reckless abandon. Five guys pull off a successful robbery. Literally, as soon as it’s completed they start discussing the next job. Within two minutes they’re shooting each other in the getaway car. The whole scene is awkward and hilariously forced.
So Parker gets screwed of his cut and begins a very long and violent revenge scheme that involves doling out a lot of punishment. Fortunately, punishment is Jason Statham’s medium. Some people work with clay. Others are wordsmiths. Statham has mastered the art of pugilism. Unfortunately there’s a decisive lack of action in the film. There’s a fair amount of gun toting violence, but Parker is more of a traditional crime film and not an excuse to have the hero throw as many roundhouse kicks as humanly possible. That’s a shame, because I think the movie would have been better served by a healthy dose of fist to face moments.
Jennifer Lopez shows up as a disenchanted real estate agent looking for some thrills. She becomes a willing accomplice to Parker’s shenanigans. I was actually pleasantly surprised by Lopez. I almost forgot how good of an actress she was capable of being. This is the first film since Steven Soderbergh’s classic Out of Sight where she shows any signs of life. While her character is a thinly written act of convenience, she manages to make it an engaging role. Far more nuanced that Statham who has the emotional range of a discarded refrigerator.
Parker is an utterly forgettable little crime film. It’s not offensively bad or completely useless, but there’s really no point to it all. What I liked so much about Payback was how utterly remorseless the main character was. Mel Gibson played the same role with a healthy blend of sarcasm and ruthlessness. Statham only has one mode: steely seriousness. He may be a believable wrecking machine, but he’s hardly a likable one.
Flickering Myth Rating: Film ★ ★ / Movie ★ ★