Action star Jason Statham teams up with veteran Hollywood filmmaker Taylor Hackford in Parker, an unapologetically old fashioned action thriller that gives the Stath a little more to work with in his portrayal of one of crime fiction’s beloved characters.
Action stars are brand names, and Jason Statham is as solid and reputable a brand as you can get. In a cinema world defunct of really manly men playing really manly action heroes (Dwayne Johnson being the exception), Statham is a welcome throwback yet one who doesn’t mind messing with the formula if need be.
Enter Parker, the latest adaptation of a Donald E. Westlake (under the pseudonym Richard Stark) pulp crime novel that features Stark’s signature creation Parker, a hard boiled criminal with a unique code of ethics. Statham is the latest actor to play the role after Lee Marvin and Mel Gibson, and much like their Point Blank and Payback (respectively) Parker has our anti-hero plough through the criminal underworld to settle a score and retrieve heist money owed to him.
Directing is Taylor Hackford, an Oscar nominated filmmaker (Ray) whose recent output is sporadic at best. That Hackford committed himself to Parker (his third film in ten years) proves it to be a passion project. Yet while he brings a slick sense of style to the varied locales and the heist/action sequences are competently handled, needed was that extra something to contemplate Statham’s gung-ho performance.
Enter Jennifer Lopez. She plays Leslie Rodgers, a down in the dumps real estate agent who gets involved in Parker’s quest for revenge. While the character is no doubt a crucial role in the novel, here she is a throwaway distraction. A lot of it is due to Lopez’s bland presence and her total lack of chemistry with Statham.
Interestingly in a scene where Lopez undresses in front of Statham, Hackford evokes one of her better turns in Steven Soderbergh’s Out of Sight. It’s a scene that’s supposed to titillate but instead comes off as tacky and boorish, the opposite of when Lopez did the same to George Clooney fifteen years ago. Goes to show that it’s not so much about who is naked in front of the camera, but how the director frames it.
Although they share double billing it’s Statham who’s the star here. The man is simply a machine when it comes to action scenes, and his gruff personality suits the Parker character, as does his willingness to stretch himself when needed with the characters “master of disguise” antics features Statham taking on varied personas throughout. For a genuine cackle, listening to Statham attempt a Texan accent is recommended.
Statham is an old school star headlining an unashamedly old school movie. A little more energy behind the camera and a different leading lady and Parker could have been something great. As it stands it’s a treat for Statham fans only.