Donald E. Westalke’s anti hero Parker has never found a suitable film avatar. Mel Gibson perhaps came close to hitting the nail on the head in “Payback”, but it just didn’t feel like the professional criminal who featured in over 20 novels. Now, Jason Statham has stepped up for the role, and it’s possible that Parker has finally found his perfect leading man. If you are a fan of the novels, it will be hard for you to read them again without hearing Stath’s cockney accent. He certainly encapsulates Parker’s hard man persona. No one knows his first name, so even his girlfriend has to call him by his surname. He makes an attractive real estate agent strip to make sure she’s not wearing a wire. And he doesn’t think twice before forcing a knife into his hand to avoid it penetrating his eye. Think of him as a bored unemployed James Bond.
Based on the 19th Parker novel “Flashfire”, the professional thief once again finds himself shot and left for dead after he refuses to perform a heist with hard-nosed criminal Melander (Michael Chiklis) and his crew. After being rescued by a kind hearted family, he escapes from hospital and sets about getting revenge on Melander for double-crossing him. He enlists the help on Leslie (Jennifer Lopez), a real estate agent who has vital information that can help Parker steal the jewellery Melander claimed in a heist.
The director Taylor Hackford intended on making “Parker” a film noir that paid plenty of respect to the source material’s pulp fiction roots. For the most part, Hackford misses the mark. What could be something quite memorable turns into a rather ordinary action film. Having said that, there is a brief moment when it drifts into smart caper territory when Parker and Leslie are planning how they’re going to get hold of the stolen jewels. It doesn’t take long though for a few scenes of brutal violence to come along and remove any doubt of the film becoming too cerebral. Thank goodness for that.
While Jason Statham owns the role of Parker, Jennifer Lopez is a surprising delight. She’s not had much luck with acting roles in recent years. In fact, her appearance with George Clooney in “Out Of Sight” was probably the last good film she starred in. Here she’s given the rare opportunity of being a female love interest in an action film that actually has more than two dimensions. This in part is why “Parker” is slightly easier to like than many other efforts from the Stath’s back catalogue. It has all the necessary elements that could make it a slick and entertaining actioner, but Taylor Hackford just can’t put all the ingredients to good use.
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