Directed by: Taylor Hackford.
Written by: John J. McLaughlin based on the novel by Donald E. Westlake.
Starring: Jason Statham (Parker), Jennifer Lopez (Leslie Rodgers), Michael Chiklis (Melander), Wendell Pierce (Carlson), Clifton Collins Jr. (Ross), Bobby Cannavale (Jake Fernandez), Patti LuPone (Ascension), Carlos Carrasco (Norte), Micah A. Hauptman (August Hardwicke), Emma Booth (Claire), Nick Nolte (Hurley), Daniel Bernhardt (Kroll).
The main problem with Parker is that Jason Statham is not Lee Marvin. The other major problem with the film is that Taylor Hackford is not John Boorman. This may seem like an unfair complaint – since few actors of any generation have the kind of instant, masculine presence of Marvin, and few directors have the skills of Boorman, but while I was watching Parker – based on a Donald E. Westlake novel – I couldn’t help but think of Point Blank – the hard-nosed 1967 film Marvin and Boorman made based on another of the Parker novels that Westlake wrote. Although they are not based on the same Parker novel, the plot of both films is remarkable similar – the main character does a job with a group of criminals, has his share stolen and is left for dead, but miraculously survives and is hell bent on revenge. In both movies, the character is offered a way out with the money they should have earned from the job – but refuses to take it. For Parker, it is the principle of the thing more than the money that matters.
Parker is by no means a horrible movie – it’s actually one better than most of Statham’s films, although I admit that isn’t saying very much. Statham specializes in these kind of B-grade action movies – from the Transporter series to the Crank series and any number of other one offs in between. He isn’t a particularly gifted actor – but he has square jawed, muscular look of a younger Bruce Willis, and in his limited range can be effective at times. He wouldn’t necessarily be my first choice to play Westlake’s Parker – but the actors who I think could do the role justice – like Marvin did or like Robert Mitchum could have done – are dead. Had the screenplay, direction or other performances in the movie had been better, he may well have been able to pull it off.
But alas, they aren’t. Parker is the only mildly interesting character in the movie – and he is fairly one note. Westlake always described the Parker novels as “flat” – and they take their lead from their main character. He has a one track mind. Much of the color in a movie like Point Blank came from the supporting characters – but aside from a few short scenes by Carlos Carraso as a document forger named Norte, no one makes an impression on the audience – even though the gang that betrayed Parker includes actors as great as Michael Chiklis, Wendell Pierce and Clifton Collins Jr. and Parker’s mentor is played by Nick Nolte. But it doesn’t really matter how good the actors are if they are given nothing to do.
And then there is Jennifer Lopez. She seems to have been teleported in from another movie. I don’t really even blame Lopez for the fact her character falls flat, and doesn’t fit in with the rest of the movie – it’s the way the role is written that doesn’t work. I suppose filmmakers were trying to make Lopez and Statham into a sort of odd couple – with Statham barely talking, and Lopez barely shutting up – but mainly, I was annoyed when Lopez was onscreen – which she was far too often as the movie progresses, especially when she starts doing things that no logical person would do in a similar situation.
Parker is an entirely forgettable experience. Nothing really stands out in my mind as being all that good – I guess there are a few bloody fights that work – but other than Lopez’s character, nothing really stands out as being all that bad. The film just kind of sits there on screen, never leaving much of an impression on you either way. Now that it’s available for home viewing, I see no reason why anyone would watch it when they could watch Point Blank instead.