Parker, like Statham, is precisely blunt

parker_movie-wide Parker -2013

Directed by Taylor Hackford
Starring Jason Statham, Jennifer Lopez, Nick Nolte, Michael Chiklis, Wendell Pierce, Clifton Collins Jr., Bobby Cannavelle, Patti LuPone, Carlos Carrasco, Emma Booth
Screenplay by John J. McLaughlin based on Flashpoint by Donald E. Westlake

Someone’s always done Parker wrong.  As many of the different iterations of the Donald Westlake character as there have been, whether Lee Marvin in Point Blank, Jim Brown in The Split, Peter Coyote in Slayground or Mel Gibson in Payback, Parker is always on his way through a bevy of bad guys who screwed him over in some way.  Usually there is loot from a heist involved…and a woman or two.  He always seeks vengeance, and only due to principle.  The same could be said about most Jason Statham movies these days.  So in this case, we have a pretty understandable match.

This time, the heist is the Ohio State Fair, which somehow ends up being around 1 million.  Michael Chiklis leads a team of doofs and rejects that think they have knocked him off, but if they had, then there would be no movie.  When he barely escapes his fate, he begins to work his way up the chain of bad guys that “leads to Chicago.”  Every step of the way he is warned against going further.  He does not heed these warnings.

Jennifer Lopez plays a struggling Real Estate Agent…badly.  It is truly distressing to think of her as the same person who graced the screen in My Family or Out of Sight.  I actually thought she was an actress then.  Her performance here is on par with Maid in Manhattan or, perhaps Monster-in-Law.  She plays the down-on-her-luck thing with as much pluck as she can muster, and tries to gather as much comedic value out of her home life with her mom (LuPone) as possible.  It’s in the range of, say, Full House, the early years.  But when the jokes are over, her mother is there to pat her on the back and lament the loss of her leased car and her inability to get a full commission.  First world problems…

Meanwhile, Parker wants exactly what he’s owed.  Statham gets to try on different accents, including his native English.  He does exactly what Statham does in these films: precise action, very dry humor, very little chemistry with the women and a reluctance to put up with wacky hi-jinks.  The scene featured in all the trailers is his demand for Lopez to undress so he can check for wires.  This is done, of course, to add more of Lopez’ real estate to the large screen.  It’s dispassionate and lacking in humor: not exactly a home run.

So the real estate agent and the revenge seeker join forces, mainly so the former can tell Parker about the local history and exasperate him over various things like an old lady’s jewels and asking him if he’s been in jail.  If you don’t know how it all ends, you have never seen a Westlake story or a Statham movie before.  Its bloody, but not the extreme that Gibson’s film was.  Lopez takes away from the serious tone, and Statham’s countenance will not bedented by dumb American comedy, so in that respect, we have a stalemate.  Otherwise, it’s passable action with good pacing, so long as you discount the time the two stars share on the screen.

Chiklis is annoying.   The other bad guys come across as tweakers.   Nolte is looking haggard and near death, as usual.  Only Emma Booth exceeds the limitations of her role as Parker’s girl.  This may be due to the fact that she is not Deborah Kara Unger.  She just looked like an ashtray in that one.

To say Hackford is not at the level of Ray, Delores Claiborne and An Officer and a Gentleman is an understatement.  The movie is on par with most of the rest of his career, though, even if it wont be mentioned first in his retrospective.  Most decisions to watch this film won’t be predicated on his involvement, either.  Or Westlake’s. Most people watching this film want to see Statham stab blunt things through people.

(**1/2 out of *****)

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