Jason Statham playing Donald Westlake’s Parker? It’s a beautiful match; sadly wasted on a completely unremarkable film.
Parker, for the few uninitiated, is a pulp hero detailed in innumerable crime novels, which have been adapted into a myriad of films, which starred a diverse cavalcade of lead actors in the role. That role being: a pissed-off criminal with a code of honor; who is perpetually fucked over by his partners, and never fails to get even.
Now, if you didn’t know better, you’d think Statham had been playing Parker in just about every movie he’s starred in. "Crank", "Transporter", "Safe", all their respective sequels - he’s always a bad ass criminal, he’s always getting fucked over by his comrades, he always gets even, and he’s always pretty chivalrous in doing so.
The glory of Jason Statham is that audiences know exactly what they’re getting. There’s no fear of being tricked into seeing an art house movie; the way George Clooney and Brad Pitt "swindled" audiences with "The American" and "Killing Them Softly", respectively (nothing against those films.) So when you add the "Parker" brand into the Statham mix, it’s hard to imagine what could go wrong.
The answer is not much; but with no room for risk comes little room for reward. Like every Statham before it, "Parker" is the exactly the film you expect it to be; and if you’ve seen "Point Blank" or "The Outfit" or "Payback" (other adaptations of Parker novels) then you’ve basically seen it before already (and with better photography, too.)
There’s not a single beat you can’t see coming ten steps away here - Parker finishes a big job with his team, gets fucked over by their ringleader (Michael Chiklis,) and then teams up with an equally cast-aside Palm Beach local (Jennifer Lopez) to settle the score. Lots of guns are fired, and eventually settled it is.
And putting Statham in the role, while perfect casting, hardly shows us something we haven’t seen before. Usually the appeal with Parker is that he’s a bad guy, quite literally - you know, Parker allowed Lee Marvin to beat up women and Mel Gibson to shoot innocent people. It’s a role that exorcises an actors need to play evil while letting him retain the ’lead role’ spotlight at the same time, which is why it’s been so popular for so long. But being a mean dick is old hat for Statham, whose British accent suits sarcastic witticisms followed up by dispassionate killings. He was Parker before he was Parker; and it diminishes the appeal of seeing him in the role for the first time.
And then there’s the fact that the tone and aesthetics director Taylor Hackford have chosen split the difference between a spaghetti western and a sitcom. Worse off, there’s precious little of the former influence (color-saturated flashbacks interrupt a number of scene; cutting back to many of Parker’s pivotal moments) and way too much of the latter (there’s enough terrible scene-closing one-liners here to make Arnold Schwarzenegger jealous.)
Sure, he can make things fun and kinetic - he also abuses on-screen text and cheap transition effects as if he’s using Final Cut Pro for the very first time - but the rest of this feels like lazy hackwork. Don’t even get me started on the digital blood that sprays from our villains in the finale - it looks like someone of the VFX team let their nephew draw on the film with crayon.
But "Parker" is never bad so much as it’s uninspiring - just dull, really. The good thing about Jason Statham making the same film over and over is, you never get ripped off. But the bad thing about Jason Statham making the same film over and over again is, the returns diminish - and they’ve dipped pretty low. Maybe I was spoiled last week with the twin above-average action thrillers "Broken City" and "The Last Stand", but "Parker" is fine; nothing more and nothing less. But I’ll still watch it in its entirety the first time I catch it playing on TBS