Director: Taylor Hackford
Cast: Jason Statham, Jennifer Lopez, Michael Chiklis, Emma Booth and Nick Nolte
Plot: Parker (Statham) is betrayed and left for dead by his old team, sending him on a quest for vengeance that takes him to Palm Beach, where he needs real estate agent, Leslie (Lopez) to help him evade the local police.
Going to see a Jason Statham film is always a bit of a gamble. Sometimes, the British action star chooses the perfect action movie, like ‘Crank’ or ‘Transporter’, but other times, his choice of film could turn into a major flop, like ‘Killer Elite’ or ‘The Italian Job’. Thankfully Parker is one of his better films.
This film is benefited (and hindered, but more on that later), by the fact, it is based on a book ‘Flashfire’, the nineteenth in a series of novels, based on the career criminal, Parker. Jason Statham is not the first guy to portray Parker in a film, but he is definitely the most memorable. After watching this film, it will be hard not to think of Parker without Jason Statham’s growling Cockney accent and macho physique. He suits the role so well, mainly because we have seen this story before from the actor. It is mainly focused on Statham’s quest for vengeance and a strangely decent set of morals for a criminal. Despite the lack of originality, this film will hold one of the most Jason Statham moments yet, seen in the fight in a hotel room (I won’t give the moment away – check it out for yourself).
Enough about Statham: he pretty much delivers the usual performance, but there is nothing wrong with that. This action film plays out like a decent thriller, the action never really leaving Statham, as he tracks down his old partners. The fact that it was a book means that the story is a lot smarter than we would have expected and we get some deeper characters than are usually allowed in an action flick. This does mean that the final fight is more of a tense shoot-out than a pulse-pounding punch-up (as one might expect from a Statham movie), but it satisfies in its own way.
There are moments, where we get the feeling that this movie suffers from the fact that it used to be a book. Some of the characters (Parker’s wife and father-in-law), feel underwritten and there is a sense that there is a whole story there that is only being touched. Having no connection with the source text, I was left a little confused at certain moments. However, on the most part, a crisp script with some great dialogue, helped move the film at a good pace, never stopping it from becoming tedious.
I was worried that Jennifer Lopez would bring the film down. Surprisingly, she only joins the film a third of the way in and isn’t that bad an actress. Her character could have been a little better (her main motivation is money and a crush on Statham), but I shall blame the book on that. One moment that did impress me was a section, where J-Lo believes Statham is going to kill her and delivers a decent, short monologue on her life in the shadow of Palm Beach. It was a fairly impressive moment from an actress, who hasn’t been in a good role for some time now. Other than that, she is there strictly for comedy purposes, which isn’t as bad as it sounds. It was a shame that the film went on to give her the typical ‘damsel in distress’ role for the climax.
I am also glad to see Michael Chiklis in this movie, an actor who I always enjoy watching. He is given the role of Melander, the villain with connections with the mob. He does well with the little screen time he is given, but the film has a lot of content to squeeze in. He shines in the final moments, when he is interrogating Leslie (Jennifer Lopez), switching effortlessly from calm to terrifyingly violent. If the film had more time to focus on his character, it could have been a show-stealing performance. As it stands, Jason Statham remains the hero of this film, giving us no less than we would expect from the grizzled action hero.
Critics have been very harsh on this film, calling it a sub-par collection in the action genre. However, when comparing it to other action flicks I have watched recently, Parker soars above the rest, giving the audience a great story, good characters and some tense moments. The trailer and addition of Statham and Lopez undersells this movie, because it was a nice surprise.
Final verdict: A great story made complete with Statham, better than we have seen him in a long time. More thriller than action, but worth a watch nonetheless.