Parker Walks the Walk, Doesnít Talk the Talk
Parker (Jason Statham) is a professional. He doesnít steal from those who canít afford it. He doesnít kill those he doesnít have to. He does what he says he is going to do. He expects others to do the same. He lives up to his word. And, most importantly, if you cross him, if you trick him, if you do not give him what he is owed, he will get even and, in doing so, he will make sure you pay for attempting to screw him over.
Jason Statham in Parker © FilmDistrict
And yet, after a robbery at the Ohio State Fair more or less goes off as planned, the other four members of his crew do exactly that. The one who imagines himself in charge, Melander (Michael Chiklis), doesnít want to divvy up the score but instead use it for another, far bigger heist, and he isnít going to allow Parker to decline his offer. After a scuffle the group leaves him on the side of the road apparently dead, going on off on their own without giving their former partner a second thought.
Bad idea. Parker quickly pulls himself together, mends his wounds and begins putting the pieces of the puzzle together. Even though his best and most trusted friend Hurley (Nick Nolte) urges him to leave it alone, even though he learns that one of his former crew is highly connected within the Chicago mafia, this is one man who doesnít take kindly to being stabbed in the back. Heading down to the glitzy wilds of Palm Beach, using down on her luck real estate agent Leslie Rodgers (Jennifer Lopez) for information, Parker has tracked down Melander and the rest of the guys and, rest assured, heís going to make sure he gets his share of the Ohio State Fair loot and those four in turn get exactly the punishment coming to them.
It doesnít make any sense. Parker, the first movie based on one of Donald E. Westlakeís novels (written, of course, under the pseudonym Richard Stark), in this case the relatively recent Flashfire, where the actual name of the character has been used, should have been a good movie. Director Taylor Hackford (Ray, An Officer and a Gentleman) understands the gritty, hard-boiled nature of the guy, doesnít shy away from his violent inclinations and isnít afraid to dig right into the pulpy aspects of the material. As for the plot, itís authentically straight-forward and devoid of frills, screenwriter John J. McLaughlin (Hitchcock, Black Swan) stripping things as bare as they should be keeping the main storyline clean, clear and mostly on point.
Problem is, Parker isnít a good movie. It doesnít have the ferocious tenacity of John Boormanís Point Blank or the subtle intelligence of John Flynnís The Outfit. Heck, it even lacks the crackerjack slick-ass fun of Brian Helgelandís Payback, Mel Gibsonís devil-may-care performance elevating that piece of bullet-riddled cheese to a higher plateau than it ever would have climbed to without him. Hackfordís movie is all over the place in regards to tone, slips in a bunch of weird, disjointed flashbacks that serve little to no purpose and oftentimes doesnít seem to know what kind of film it ultimately wants to be. Itís annoyingly all over the map, and even though certain scenes ring with the proper Westlake blood-splattered realism more often than not this film is a head-scratching mess thatís virtually impossible to enjoy.
Sad, because Statham was born to play this character. While Lee Marvin in Point Blank will always be the quintessential Parker (renamed ĎWalkerí), the Safe and The Transporter action star easily fills the thiefís shoes all the same. The Outfit may have had Robert Duvall and, as Iíve already stated, Payback may have been a showcase for Gibson but that doesnít make Stathamís embodiment any less galvanizing, Statham showing once again heís far more talented as an actor than the majority of his previous roles would ever initially lead one to believe.
Even better, Hackford goes a long way towards rescuing Lopez from the discarded former superstar actress slagheap, reminding us all that once upon a time she was an ebullient and free-spirited talent who could steal scenes from the likes of George Clooney with relative ease. She has moments here, quiet, beautiful little asides, which totally took me by surprise. Lopez brings depth to her performance, real weight and emotional meaning, making the ultimate mishandling of her character all the more dispiriting because of that fact.
What do I mean? As solid as McLaughlinís script can be when dealing with Parker as a character and towards his mission more or less on the whole, how it deals with Leslie is borderline inexcusable. This smart, tenacious woman becomes a walking talking imbecile at the drop of the hat, the whole climax revolving around the facts of her stupidity to such a gigantic extent I almost couldnít believe what was taking place. Sheís reduced to a cartoon, a female caricature whoíd be insulting if she werenít so idiotic, and for that alone Parker deserves almost every bit of vitriol I could potentially send its way.
But that isnít the only issue. Not only are the aforementioned flashbacks a problem, but so are the bizarre fluctuations in tone and style throughout the picture. Sometimes the movie is a laidback procedural. Other times it roars with a similar ferocity found in the entirety of Boormanís Point Blank. At other random moments it starts to fall into comedic, almost slapstick tones that make little to no sense, almost as if Hackford intended the movie as a parody and not the down and dirty thriller other facets make it clear it desperately wants to be.
Jennifer Lopez in Parker © FilmDistrict
I guess thatís why Parker upsets me so much. The seeds of a solid thriller are all here. The appreciation for the source material is evident and the casting of the major roles is close to spot-on. But the execution, as great as it might be in spurts, isnít what it should be, the shifts in tone and the insults to intelligence far too much to bear.
Film Rating: ÍÍ (out of 4)