Directed By: Taylor Hackford
Written By: John J. McLaughlin; Based on the novel Flashfire by Donald E. Westlake
Runtime: 118 minutes
MPAA Rating: Rated R
Parker – Jason Statham
Leslie Rogers – Jennifer Lopez
Melander – Michael Chiklis
Hurley – Nick Nolte
Carlson – Wendell Pierce
Ross – Clifton Collins Jr.
August Hardwicke – Micah Hauptman
Claire – Emma Booth
Jake Fernandez – Bobby Cannavale
Ascension – Patti LuPone
Norte – Carlos Carrasco
Parker seems to be the general type of movie you see in the January-February period of the movie release season. It’s not a huge mind-blowing tentpole, but it’s a watchable matinee. The movie comes from Academy Award-winning director Taylor Hackford who previously directed Ray. Parker is basically an inoffensive, fun little action romp though not incredibly smart, witty, and original.
Parker is based on a series of hardboiled, heist novels written by Donald Westlake, mostly under the penname of Richard Stark. The titular Parker is a cold, efficient, and ruthless criminal. I’ve never read a single novel featuring Parker or Westlake’s Flashfire to which this movie was based, so I’m no authority on the character. Jason Statham offers no surprises in the role. Parker is not unlike many of the tough guy action roles he plays consistently. Statham does at least bring to the table great presence as well as physicality. He’s got a steely gaze and it looks like he’s performing all his own stunts. There are some humorous moments where you see him dressed up in disguises and adopting a ridiculously fake Texas accent as a cover, so the role is not without its charm.
The movie begins with Parker on a heist with a new crew to knock off the Ohio County Fair. The crew is lead by the ambitious Melander (Chiklis). The group gets away scot-free, but the actions of the incompetent mob prince Hardwicke (Hauptman) leaves an innocent bystander dead after he sets a fire distraction in the wrong area. Melander wants to use the money they knocked off to fund their next job, a jewelry heist in Florida. Parker disagrees and merely wants to keep his cut as originally set up. Things don’t go well though and the kerfuffle leaves Parker shot and dying in a ditch. Due to Hardwicke’s continued incompetence though, Parker lives and he is gunning for payback.
Parker next tracks down the group to Florida where they are planning to rip off a big high society jewelry auction. He gets info on the area through struggling real estate agent Leslie Rogers (Lopez) who sees through Parker’s laughable ruse and wants in. Seeing as how Florida is unknown territory for him and the slightest mistake could mean life in prison, he agrees to bring Leslie on as his accomplice.
Parker has a bit of an appealing retro, throwback feel. It’s reminiscent of a seeming dying breed of cinema. Middle budget movies with solid casts seem to be coming more and more scarce. Taylor Hackford shoots the movie nicely and gives the movie an interesting, blue collar, working class vibe. This isn’t a slick, ultra high-tech heist movie. This isn’t Ocean’s Eleven but more along the lines of something Michael Caine or Clint Eastwood would’ve made in the 70’s or 80’s.
I think what is more annoying and heavy handed though is this forced message of thieves stealing from thieves. We get a peak at Parker’s mindset when he talks stealing from rich people and how they are the descendants of thieves and dishonest people. Not every rich person makes their fortune on the backs of slaves or through thievery. This resentment Hollywood tends to exhibit in movies for the rich class or 1% or what have you seems odd considering it’s a group they represent to a T as well. Additionally, the message gets lost and comes confusing when you see Parker ripping off a County Fair, innocent bystanders, and a low-profile bank not exactly Enron and Lehman Brothers here. While Parker is basically an anti-hero of sorts, he lacks integrity when he espouses, “I don’t hurt people who don’t deserve it, and I don’t steal from people who can’t afford it.” The contradictory message takes you out of the story too much.
Jennifer Lopez is likable as an unglamorous, stressed out real estate agent who is stuck living in her mother’s condo running her errands. Her role though comes shoehorned in. After Parker decides to bring her into the heist, her character offers realistically little to the plot at all. In fact her only continued involvement through the rest of the story comes off rather forced. Had there been more of Parker tutoring Leslie into the heist world, it would’ve been a bit more natural.
The movie does have some surprising and creative action scenes and fight beats. Hackford doesn’t hide at all this movie has an R-rating which is nice. And since Statham does his stunts, the camera isn’t constantly cutting away from the action that’s going on. Seeing Statham get to match-up with Vic Mackey onscreen is also equally entertaining.
The 411: Parker is a fun, little heist movie but nothing mind-blowing. There are some good actors, but none of the performances are particularly amazing. The writing is rather rough at times, and the third act is lacking quite a bit in terms of logic and the incorporation of Jennifer Lopez's character into the story. The movie is worth seeing for a bargain matinee, or a look-see on Netflix.
|Final Score: 7.0 [ Good ] legend|