Can Jason Statham die? After walking way fresh and clean despite being punched in the rib, shot in the back, gruesomely beat up, and stabbed in the collarbone and through the hand in Parker, it seems that Statham is some kind of immortal God on the silver screen. And that’s fine. These days, nobody goes into a Statham vehicle expecting our charismatically brutish British action star to perish at the hands of some scheevy villain. What we do expect, however, is high-octane and bloody violence, and in that department, Parker, director Taylor Hackford’s adaptation of the Daniel Westlake novel, delivers in spades and then some. And yet, after three Transporter movies, two Crank films, Death Race, The Mechanic, Safe, Killer Elite, and more, is it that obnoxious to say that I’m slowly falling off the blood-soaked bandwagon and suffering from minor Statham fatigue?
This time around, Statham stars as the titular Parker, an insanely skilled and enigmatic professional thief. When his latest job at the Ohio State Fair is pulled off with several risky speed bumps, Parker finds himself double-crossed and shot by the new group of thieves he was working with. Left for dead, Parker awakens with one goal and one goal only: get revenge on the thieves and take back his share of the fortune he was promised. This leads Parker on a revenge soaked mission to West Palm Beach, Florida, where his dealings lead him to cross paths with Leslie Rodgers (Jennifer Lopez), a down-on-her-luck real estate agent who might just benefit from Parker’s mission for revenge and riches.
As in any Statham movie, action matters most and Hackford, the Oscar-nominated director of Ray, does a complete 180 in terms of career and provides enough slam-bam, well-choreographed action sequences that keep the film from being entirely worthless. Be it brutal beat downs that take place in a car, in a rock club on Bourbon Street, or, my personal favorite, in a spacious hotel room in West Palm Beach, Hackford delivers escalating suspense that peaks our interest and then floors us with bloody fights that leave the adrenaline junkie inside of us more than pleased and even grossed out on numerous occasions (that aforementioned stabbing through the hand is a doozy!). The lead performances from Statham and Lopez are also somewhat enjoyable. As always, Statham is the perfect blend of macho man action star and haughty playboy, and Lopez, in a role that quietly brought back memories of her great debut as Karen Sisco in Out of Sight, embraces the dumb-downed character and goes verbally toe-to-toe with Statham in a handful of sensual exchanges.
It’s really Hackford who ends up dropping the ball on the entire production. Yes, his action scenes crackle and thump, but the rest of the movie falls flat. The problem is that Hackford doesn’t seem to know what to do with the source material and the two interconnecting plotlines. With the Statham storyline, Hackford provides way too many flashbacks in the beginning and sucks all the intrigue out of what could have been a nifty, smart, and mysterious little action thriller. For instance, a running gag throughout the film is that Parker can’t get taken to the hospital and risk capture, but instead of first letting us figure that out by having him go to the hospital and then frantically try to escape (now that would be fun!), Hackford uses a jarring fade to flashback to a moment when Parker utters, “I hate hospitals”. That’s it, that’s the entire flashback, just those couple of seconds to let us know that Parker and hospitals don’t mix. Instances like these take all the fun and intrigue out of the moments that could have told us the same thing through experience and not exposition.
Hackford also doesn’t know what to do with the Lopez storyline either. In the film, Lopez’s character seems completely displaced and, at times, she even feels like she’s in a completely different movie, a typical Jennifer Lopez rom-com for instance. Though I’ve never read the source material, I’m sure Westlake intended Leslie and her world to be a complete juxtaposition to the comically dark and overly brutal world of Parker, but Hackford doesn’t pull this off because he doesn’t properly juxtapose the two storylines. By the time Parker and Leslie meet up, it’s like two different genres coming together as opposed to two different people who could actually use one another’s help. It’s a shame too because Lopez seems ready to do whatever the script requires of her, be it reciting sexual innuendos or slipping into several skin tight skirts that show off her famous bottom. As a result, I was left wondering what the Coen Bros. would do with the same exact material and the same wacky sub plot.
Unfortunately, Parker becomes nothing more than just another Statham movie, an action film that is bound to become blurred with the rest of Statham’s high octane and unforgettable filmagrophy. It’s a shame too because Statham is actually a really talented actor (if you haven’t seen The Bank Job, rent it asap!) who could use a great director to elevate his career at this point.
Review by Zack Sharf