Jason Statham is Parker. Actually, Jason Statham is Jason Statham in some funny outfits. Jason Statham dresses as a priest. Jason Statham dresses as a Texas cowboy. Sounds entertaining enough as is, correct? Unfortunately, Jason Statham makes for a somewhat intriguing character in a story that goes nowhere. As a movie, Parker is based upon the series by Richard Stark (a.k.a., Donald Westlake), and I do hope that no one involved with this project was aiming upon extending this film into a franchise. Because while this flick isn’t terrible and aims to entertain in a very mindless, Statham-y way, this is clearly a one-off, forgettable movie that makes me question where Statham is going in his career.
Here’s the basic gist — Parker is a thief with a strict code of personal ethics who gets double-crossed by his heist partners (led by Michael Chiklis and joined by Wendell Pierce and Clifton Collins Jr.) and left for dead. In case you were wondering, this sounds exactly like Point Blank for a reason because both movies are based upon the same book series. Oh, and there was also the Payback film starring Mel Gibson that derives from the Stark/Westlake’s series as well. By now, these other movies have also been aped several times over, so Parker now swaggers into the room and seems like a total cliché — and since it stars Jason Statham, that isn’t such a bad thing in and of itself. Statham himself usually seems to relish such an opportunity, and of course, he’s been playing a variant of such an action-antihero, vengeance-based character all along. As with nearly every other Statham vehicle, if you’ve seen Crank, any of the Transporter flicks, The Italian Job, The Bank Job, Blitz, Death Race, or Safe (and I could keep going), then you’ve essentially seen all of those movies. But oddly enough and even you like Statham on principle, you’ll merely receive a mild kick out of Parker, and you’d really be better off popping in DVDs of your favorite Statham flicks at home.
Director Taylor Hackford (The Devil’s Advocate, Ray) does something weird with the lead character. Instead of fashioning him as a true antihero, Parker is actually very likable. Too likable. Almost fuzzy. I’m not sure how well this compares to the character of the books, but he’s a lot nicer than Gibson’s version of the character in Payback. Statham’s Parker is a swell guy and almost too soft; he’s like a twisted Robin Hood in that he steals from the rich and gives to himself. Parker also never physically hurts anyone unless he has to do it. Operate within his rules, and everything during or after a crime scene will go smoothly. Sort of disappointing, sure, but this still sounds like fodder for a great popcorn crunching ride, right? Unfortunately, this movie fails to redeem its existence because there’s just not enough goddamn action, and Statham seems uninspired by the script even if he is perfectly watchable as an actor while he’s doing almost anything.
To make matters worse, Jennifer Lopez further ruins our suspension of disbelief as Leslie Rodgers, a real-estate agent who can’t sell shit, so she falls in (sort of) with one of Parker’s personas and ends up in the thick of another stunts; and, of course, she ends up showing Parker her bra and panties even though he’s theoretically got a girlfriend (Emma Booth) of his own. Oh, and Nick Nolte is in this movie too. He plays a father figure/mentor type, and I have superficial issues with his presence because last time I saw him and Lopez together in a movie (U Turn), he was her daddy, and she was fucking him too. Now she wasn’t terrible in that particular movie, but we all know where her acting career went from there. And even though I should be able to overlook the mental image of Lopez & Nolte doing it doggie style while reviewing a completely different movie, it still bugs. I can’t help it.
Overall, Parker is pure cheese, but it’s not the delicious, melty, oozing type of cheese. It’s not a grilled cheese sandwich with provolone, swiss, and cheddar melting off of Texas toast with some pesto on the side. It’s more of a flat, greasy, thin slab of bread with some processed, imitation cheese product that’s already gone cold. I have to wonder though … is Statham looking for a way out of his shtick by making this movie that doesn’t arrive with his usual action oomph? That is, does Statham ever wake up next to his supermodel girlfriend and decide that he’s really tired of kicking ass for a living? Maybe what he really wants to do is become a leading man in romantic comedies. He could be the new Patrick Dempsey someday if he really tried. Or maybe not. Sadly, I’d have to recommend that you skip Parker, and that hurts to say because I do love the Statham.
Agent Bedhead lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma. She and her little black heart can be found at Celebitchy.