It’s January, which means we’re due for another Jason Statham action film. This time director Taylor Hackford‘s Parker impresses as an R-rated revenge flick that plays light on the story and heavy on the bloodshed. Parker is Statham working at his finest (for the genre) and it also wrings in a supporting performance by Jennifer Lopez that feels like a shining moment for the faded star. I can’t say Parker will win you over with its quips or its brief Nick Nolte appearance, but I can say that Statham enthusiasts will totally dig this one more than his other recent B movie entries.
Parker (Jason Statham) is that rare breed of thief that doesn’t really care for violence. He also doesn’t like to steal from people that don’t have enough. He’d rather get the job done quickly, without any innocent civilian lives getting lost, but if they don’t do exactly what he says he makes it perfectly clear that he’ll do what’s necessary.
This particular working style should come as a blessing for other working criminals in the field, but it doesn’t. A group of unknowns get recommended by one of Parker’s friends and their job with Parker quickly shoots itself in the head after the head-honcho of the bunch, Melander (Michael Chiklis) decides to get greedy with the dough.
They tussle with Parker and eventually leave him for dead… but Parker doesn’t die; he simply changes accents/identities, grabs a drink of water and then continues to come back for more. He’s a determined little bugger that scratches at you like an itch until you’ve gone and peeled off the skin on the back of your neck.
He heads to Florida, because that’s where Melander and his dim-witted buddies are hiding out for the next gig. Parker’s plan is to wait it out and then strike on them after they’ve secured their loot, killing them and taking off with the score that he was owed, with massive interest.
A struggling real estate agent by the name of Leslie Rodgers (Jennifer Lopez) gets dragged into this after stealing what she thought was a wealthy client out from under a co-worker, only to realize that Parker isn’t actually on the market for a home, but a home containing several idiots instead. This is sort of great for Leslie and acts as a blessing in disguise, because she lives with her mom and is broke and could sure use a hell of a payday.
She and Parker join forces (sort of) and the rest is … well uh… a fairly decent action film.
Director Taylor Hackford certainly knows his stuff. He keeps Parker from ever digging into thick material that would probably result in it being a story-heavy bore. He keeps the score simple and the eventual payout satisfying, which is more than I can say for most Statham B movies. Parker doesn’t try and confuse you by adding in too many subplots or characters that twist into the picture halfway through. Instead, Parker plays out exactly as it presents itself. It’s an action picture, with some shooting and some fighting, but most of all it’s a plan-and-attack revenge flick that doesn’t sit too deeply in the pool of personal turmoil.
Parker, played with clarity and confidence by the mostly reliable Jason Statham, is a basic character that follows a simple moral code. Don’t screw people over. If you do then you deserve everything that’s coming to you. That’s it. There’s nothing more to Parker and Hackford (and especially Statham) understand that. They cut through all of the blabbering about what’s right or wrong in the business of killing and they go right for the good stuff.
The action isn’t typical Statham stuff and by that I mean what’s presented in Parker is very rough and blunt early on, but the ending shootout does give us some of that “cool” Statham action feeling that we’ve come to expect. I particularly liked how he punched the ticket for one of the film’s most annoying (and sweaty) characters. You’ll know exactly what I’m talking about once you see it.
And you should see it. Parker might sell itself as another tired Statham January action film and it sort of is, but it takes a much better route presenting itself. The heart of the film rests between the character dynamics between Jennifer Lopez and Jason Statham. The two share such an awkward and unbalanced amount of chemistry. Statham’s character clearly wants a business partner, while Lopez’s wants a possible love interest. Hackford presents the relationship in the rough, never siding with one or the other and Statham and Lopez do the rest to stretch that out and see where it goes.
It’s not common for an action film of this caliber to have such a relationship and to never fully pursue it and that is actually one of Parker‘s stronger points. It doesn’t ever feel the need to solidify itself into one specific sub-genre. It’s not the funny and never serious Statham action picture that the trailers hint at and it’s definitely not a tense action thriller either.
Parker should be sought out and viewed by Statham fans, because it’s one of those rare ones that actually is worth seeing in theaters. Everyone else is probably either tired of the action star or not as easily impressed as I and for them I say simply skip it and maybe rent it someday. Parker isn’t going to reinvent Statham. Heck, it probably won’t even make a lot of money, but it’s just a gentle reminder telling us that occasionally these Statham movies actually have some value.
Parker – 7.5/10