Parker Review: Statham Impresses Despite Simple Plot
Donovan's Rating: 7/10
Fused Rating: 6.5/10
(2 reviews total)
Taylor Hackford’s Parker
begins at a state fair as Jason Statham gets out of a car dressed as a priest. A few minutes later, the fair’s going down in flames as he and his cohorts – Clifton Collins Jr., Michael Chiklis, and Wendell Pierce – steal money and make their exit. Their plan goes off without a hitch. Parker reveals during this robbery that he serves as some sort of modern-day Robin Hood, stealing from those who can afford to lose some money.
Yes, you’re in for another movie about robbers with hearts of gold – well, at least one robber with a heart of gold. After pulling off the heist at the state fair, the team of thieves betrays Parker and leaves him for dead on the side of the road. But it’s not a good idea to mess around with Parker; he’s tenacious, and he’ll right the wrongs that have been done to him. More importantly, he’s looking out for his sweetheart Claire, played well by Emma Booth, and her father – and Parker’s mentor – Hurley, a serviceable Nick Nolte, to make sure his previous companions don’t hurt them.
Parker features Statham in the leading role, so it’s all about action sequences of a haphazard, oddly edited fashion, right? Think again. Hackford films the action sequences in a frenetic yet calculated way, getting in as much action as possible while avoiding the clumsy whizbang of other modern action films. He also spaces out the fighting so it doesn’t overwhelm the story. Instead of relying on Statham’s action leanings to carry the movie forward, Parker carries out its primary premise of betrayal and intrigue while occasionally touching on issues of class.
Parker also works as a seemingly unintentional performance piece for Statham. He plays a tough guy with a conscience, which is something we’ve seen time and time again, but Statham, who generally performs little beyond action choreography, gets something of a showcase, filling out his role with conviction without going overboard and arguably interpreting this character type better than his action star contemporaries – and even his predecessors – ever could. Whether he’s disguised as a priest or a cowboy, it’s a strong performance in a film that doesn’t require such effort.
As Statham carries the narrative forward, Jennifer Lopez pops up in the middle of the film – out of nowhere, really – as Leslie Rodgers, a recently divorced real estate agent striving for commission who lives with her soap opera-loving mother, played by iconic Broadway actress Patti LuPone, in Palm Beach. Lopez’s presence initially confuses, but a meeting with Parker, disguised as a wealthy Texan looking for a home, sets things straight while also introducing us to the fact that Leslie is understandably drawn to Parker.
There’s something John J. McLaughlin’s script does right: working in Lopez as the primary catalyst for the dichotomy of the wealthy and the poor. Still, it gives Statham precious little with which to develop his character even when he’s giving it his all. Despite managing to weave Lopez into the framework without a hitch and having good intentions with its moral message, Parker touches on issues of class a bit too obviously and makes its villains – admittedly played with gusto by Collins Jr., Chiklis, and Pierce – quite one-dimensional, and the film itself rather simple.
Leslie figures out that Parker isn’t really a wealthy Texan soon after meeting him, but she agrees to help him figure out where his former companions will strike. Her efforts to help him are also complicated by her developing feelings for him, which eventually get them both into even more trouble. Lopez plays up these romantic feelings well, putting in some fine work with a nice dose of humor every now and then.
Parker ends on a satisfying note. Not one you might expect given the film’s leads, but one that avoids the cliché of a twist and nonetheless works happily for the characters. Parker serves its purpose and gets great work out of Statham and Lopez, but it could have been a bit more ambitious and avoided pretension with its metaphors.
"Jason Statham has officially become "that" actor. That star who pops up annually, without exception, in a blandly titled vehicle - one that does consistent but unremarkable business and flies under the radar in more ways than one. Nicolas Cage has become such, as has Gerard Butler but where Statham differs is that his films actually have components of note. While Parker
is one of the more simplistic examples of this, it still delivers on violent action and offers some solid laughs. Nothwithstanding the fact that Statham needs to stretch his legs and prove to a more widespread audience his charismatic chops, Parker
still has more to offer than the stigma surrounding his films would suggest." Rating: 6/10