Parker is what Jack Reacher might have been if it hadn’t been gripped by the excess that accompanies Tom Cruise. It’s a solid, unpretentious B movie–the epitome of the Jason Statham movie ethos–that’s not worth a trip to the multiplex, but could definitely divert you for 2 hours on cable or VOD.
Parker himself is the antihero of a series of thrillers written by Donald E. Westlake under the name Richard Stark, and although for legal reasons the name “Parker” hasn’t been used before on screen, the character himself has turned up as Lee Marvin’s Walker in Point Blank (as well as Mel Gibson’s Porter in its loose remake Payback) and Robert Duvall’s Macklin in The Outfit, among other incarnations. Under whatever name, Parker is a no-nonsense career criminal who’s not averse to violence but who responds badly to the needless killing of innocents or other violations of his moral code.
In John J. McLaughlin’s script, directed by Taylor Hackford with a professionalism Parker himself might envy, we meet Parker as he and a gang are preparing to rob a state fair. One of the crew screws up, and unnecessary blood is shed. Worse, although Parker’s friend Hurley (Nick Nolte)–also the father of his girlfriend Claire (Emma Booth)–has vouched for these guys as fellow independent thieves, their leader Melander (Michael Chiklis) turns out to be a soldier for the Chicago mob, who wants to use everyone’s share of the take, including Parker’s, as bankroll for a completely different heist. Parker doesn’t appreciate surprises, and when Melander and the others learn he won’t cooperate, they leave him for dead and hold onto his money.
It’s not a good idea to treat Parker that way, and he tracks the gang to Palm Beach, determined to figure out what they’re going to steal and get his revenge. To find them, he goes undercover as a Texas tycoon looking for high-end real estate, and that brings him to struggling realtor Leslie Rodgers (Jennifer Lopez), who’s not quite as clueless as she looks.
The result is mostly predictable–the movie is called “Parker” and not “Melander,” so it’s not hard to guess who’s going to come out on top at the end–but also not. In an interesting twist on the formula, Parker and Leslie remain colleagues, not a couple (although the movie finds an excuse to pose Jennifer Lopez in her underwear anyway), and Lopez gives her best performance in years, playing very near her own age, with convincing world-weariness and limited glamorization. Hackford, an old pro, knows that Statham has his limitations as a lead (he can’t even pull off the fake Texas accent he uses to con Leslie), and compensates by loading the supporting cast with strong actors, including Clifton Collins Jr. and Wendell Pierce as members of Melander’s team, Patti LuPone (who threatens to walk away with the movie whenever she opens her mouth) as Leslie’s mother, and Bobby Cannavale as a cop who’d like to be more than her friend.
Parker is a minor but thoroughly accomplished piece of work that makes few missteps. Statham, a rarity in today’s movie world, is an old-fashioned action hero, and although he has very little range as an actor, no one can doubt that he can beat the hell out of anyone who crosses his path. Hackford handles the violence with assurance (there’s a hand-to-hand hotel room fight that’s one of the best since the Bourne series), and he knows how to sneak some humor into the proceedings without disrupting the tone. Parker is a believer in taking his money and getting out, leaving as few bodies behind as possible, and so is Parker, a movie that efficiently follows its own code.
|Charming Professional Thief|
|Naked Shower Scene|
|Mugged for Disguise|
|Gratuitous Female Nudity|
|It's just a flesh wound.|
|"No! No Hospitals!"|
|"It's gonna blow!"|
|All Explosives Make Huge Fireballs|
|I'm Not Dead...Yet|
|Inept Security Guards|
|Whatever they're paying you, I'll double it!|