I’m a big fan of Jason Statham. Not only can this guy rumble with the best action stars in the business (as we’ve seen in the Expendables flicks), but he’s also got a versatility that allows him to work in all kinds of action sub-genres. There’s the high octane craziness of the Crank and Transporter movies, more low key outings like The Bank Job and even a brief foray into fantasy action with Uwe Boll’s In The Name Of The King (the only film of Statham’s I haven’t been able to finish).
Parker fits somewhere in the crime/revenge arena as Statham plays the title character, a thief who gets screwed out of his cut on a job by Melander (Michael Chiklis) and their crew. Left for dead, Statham does who he does best: gets better. After healing up from a gunshot wound, Parker goes on a crusade to get his money back and a little revenge along the way.
If that character sounds familiar, it’s because Parker has had quite the life in fiction. He started out as a character in novels written by Richard Stark (actually Donald Westlake) back in 1962’s The Hunter. In addition to appearing in 24 novels as a hard nosed criminal who gets what he wants no matter what, Parker made the leap to film in 1966’s Made in USA. Other notable adaptations include Point Blank from 1967 starring Lee Marvin and Mel Gibson’s appearance as the character in 1999’s Payback. As it happens, 2013’s Parker is the first film to actually use the character’s name, the others changed it for various reasons. Darwyn Cooke has also adapted some of the books as graphic novels which have proven very popular and won several awards in the field.
Even though he’s been around a long time, I’m not actually very familiar with the character of Parker. I’ve never read the books or the graphic novels, so my only exposure is the one time I saw Payback soon after it came out. This was before Mel Gibson went crazy and it was still okay to like him. I dug that movie because his character — Porter — was so single minded. He had been similarly betrayed and wanted a very specific amount of money back, no more and certainly no less.
That aspect of the character came through with Statham’s interpretation of Parker in this film directed by Taylor Hackford (Proof Of Life), though they made him a bit softer. He’s got a girlfriend who he isn’t too bad too and he’s fairly nice to the down-on-her-luck real estate agent played by Jennifer Lopez. Even though he does still use her as a pawn in his game, he’s not a bastard about it. This isn’t a criticism, just something that might not sit well with Parker Purists.
My actual criticism of this movie is that it doesn’t add much to the crime-revenge drama. You get scenes of betrayal and revenge for sure and the opening heist set at the Ohio State Fair was fun, but this movie felt pretty been-there-done-that. There are fun highlights though. Statham throws down a few times, though this isn’t really a fighting movie. He also puts on a ridiculous Texan accent that’s supposed to fool Jennifer Lopez’s character.
Far from his best efforts, Statham still brings this boring and overly complicated script up from where it wold have been with a less dynamic actor. He does the best with what he’s got, but it’s not a whole lot.