Saturday, January 26, 2013

In Theaters: PARKER (2013)

(US - 2013)

Directed by Taylor Hackford.  Written by John J. McLaughlin.  Cast: Jason Statham, Jennifer Lopez, Michael Chiklis, Nick Nolte, Wendell Pierce, Clifton Collins, Jr., Bobby Cannavale, Patti LuPone, Carlos Carrasco, Michah Hauptman, Daniel Bernhardt, Emma Booth, Kirk Baltz. (R, 117 mins)

PARKER is notable as the first big-screen adaptation of one of the 24 Parker novels to actually call the cold-blooded antihero by the name given to him by author Richard Stark, a pen name for Donald E. Westlake (1933-2008).  Past cinematic Parkers include Lee Marvin's Walker in POINT BLANK (1967), Jim Brown's McClain in THE SPLIT (1968), Robert Duvall's Macklin in THE OUTFIT (1973), Peter Coyote's Stone in SLAYGROUND (1984), and Mel Gibson's Porter in PAYBACK (1999).  Regardless of the name chosen by the filmmakers, they're all "Parker," and while Jason Statham is a natural for the role, he still doesn't surpass Marvin's immortal interpretation from 45 years ago.  PARKER uses establishing elements from the first Parker novel, 1963's The Hunter, but is primarily based on one of the later Parker books, 2000's Flashfire.

Parker is running the show on a heist of the cash room at the Ohio State Fair, with an independent crew recommended to him by his aging associate Hurley (Nick Nolte).  The job is nearly botched by the incompetent Hardwicke (Michah Hauptman), but after a successful getaway, Parker is informed by the crew's hot-headed leader Melander (Michael Chiklis) that the take will provide the seed money for an even bigger job he's got planned in Palm Beach, FL.  Parker says he just wants his cut and to be on his way.  Of course, they shoot him and leave him for dead, but being that he's Parker, he's not dead and vows revenge (how many times has Parker been screwed out of his cut of a heist, anyway?  Has he ever had any hassle-free jobs?).  Hurley confesses that he didn't really vet Melander and his guys (there's also Wendell Pierce of THE WIRE and TREME as Carlson, and Clifton Collins, Jr. as Ross), and it turns out they've got ties to a powerful Chicago mobster.  Hurley, whose daughter Claire (Emma Booth) is Parker's girlfriend, warns Parker to let this one go and even tries to compensate him for his lost cut of the Ohio State Fair job, but Parker declines, saying it's a matter of principle.  Oh, and killing their asses.

When a Chicago hit man (Daniel Bernhardt, who turns in an overexpressive performance more suited for a silent movie) unsuccessfully tries to kill Claire, Parker sends her and her father out of town and heads to Palm Beach to find Melander and his guys.  Knowing the ways of like-minded career criminals, Parker passes himself off as a Texas oil man named Daniel Parmitt, and enlists the aid of real estate agent Leslie Rodgers (Jennifer Lopez) to look at area homes on the market to narrow down where Melander is staying and what exactly this big heist will be.

Scripted by John J. McLaughlin (BLACK SWAN) and directed by Taylor Hackford, who was all over the place in the '80s (AN OFFICER AND A GENTLEMAN, AGAINST ALL ODDS, WHITE NIGHTS), but has really slowed down in recent years (his last notable film was 2004's RAY), PARKER gets off to a terrific start and remains solidly enjoyable for the most part.  It's on the more grounded end of Statham's work, not up there with THE BANK JOB, but straightforward and serious like THE MECHANIC or KILLER ELITE instead of cartoonish like the TRANSPORTER and CRANK films.  It's not through any real fault of hers, but when Lopez enters around the 40-minute mark, the film shifts gears and it feels like the filmmakers are expanding a minor role in the book to accommodate a big name that they got to play the part.  Lopez's Leslie character is in the book and does help Parker to some degree, but her presence and the need to establish her backstory (divorced, broke, living with her mother, jealous of her successful co-workers, tired of eating shit from rich and entitled clients who've never worked a day in their lives, estranged from her sister, lonely and unable to find a man, etc) and to remind us through several wardrobe changes and a strip search that Lopez has that ass combine to seriously drag the film down and much of the Leslie character development feels like the kind of material that would be among the earliest stuff ditched for a screenplay adaptation.  We start with a tight, tough heist-turned-revenge thriller and that gets put on the backburner for the entire midsection so we can see Lopez playing a character pouting about how she doesn't have a boyfriend and acting heartbroken when she realizes Parker isn't on the market.  To have Statham and Lopez in an OUT OF SIGHT-inspired situation is okay, but not when plays like it's shoehorned into the middle of another film that was working just fine.

Statham doesn't really strain himself acting-wise here.  He's largely the same stoical, ruthless badass he always plays, but it's a formula that his fans enjoy and he does it well.  He's surrounded by a solid supporting cast, most notably Chiklis' patented bulldog-in-a-china-shop rage and a restrained, paternal Nolte, whose wonderfully gravelly voice has become just fascinating to hear as he's gotten older.  Despite the casting of Lopez to potentially bring in the chick-flick crowd, PARKER is still very much an entertaining Statham joint that loses its way for a time but pulls it together with no shortage of wry one-liners and over-the-top violence.


  1. "divorced, broke, living with her mother, jealous of her successful co-workers, tired of eating shit from rich and entitled clients who've never worked a day in their lives, estranged from her sister, lonely and unable to find a man, etc" Boy, is Jennifer Lopez miscast! I don't believe her in this part for a minute.

  2. Maybe the part would've worked if it wasn't Lopez playing it. She looks incredible. She's not the type to be a loser at work and sitting at home every night while her retiree mom lives it up at the bingo hall. Surely there's some more "real"-looking actresses out there who could've sold this part. It's not that Lopez is bad or a bad actress, because she's not. But at this point, she's too universally "J.Lo" to really blend into ANY part (like the Jennifer Lopez of SELENA, BLOOD AND WINE, and OUT OF SIGHT could). But this one, she shouldn't have even been playing in the first place.