Jason Statham has got to stop playing Jason Statham. We know he can do it. He did it in the fantastic Bank Job. The man has some range and when he uses it it usually pays off. If he’s not going stop playing Jason Statham than he’s going to have to start choosing better Jason Statham roles to show up in.
I think he was trying to do that with Parker. Despite the film’s this-is-a-Jason-Statham movie advertising it’s really not. It’s not really much of anything else either.
Director: Taylor Hackford
Release Date: January 25, 2013
Parker is loosely based on the fictional character created by David E. Westlake and the first book he appeared in, The Hunter. The Hunter has previously been adapted twice. Once in the noir classic Point Blank starring Lee Marvin and again in the Mel Gibson starring Payback. You can even say it’s been done three times if you count Payback‘s directors cut, which was almost completely different from the theatrical release. All three of those films are dark, gritty and feature a protagonist who is definitely not a good guy. Parker, whose name wasn’t changed for the first time in this newest film, is a bad guy. Not an anti-hero, but a bad guy.
The Parker (Jason Statham) in Parker is anything but. This is a completely rote and nearly entirely unimaginative revenge story that ditches any hard edge that may have been hinted at by the film’s namesake and replaces it with the criminal with a heart of gold. After robbing a state fair Parker’s cohorts turn on him when he won’t join him for their next heist and leave him for dead. However, he isn’t dead and after warning those close to him that the mob is probably after him he decides to go and get revenge on those that wronged him by busting up their heist. Enter real estate agent Leslie Rogers (Jennifer Lopez), who Parker cons into showing him recently bought houses around Palm Beach where he knows the bad guys just bought a house. Leslie eventually figures out that Parker is a criminal and wants in on the action.
The problem is that none of the action is all that interesting. There’s definitely an interesting character hiding in Parker, but he’s never really allowed out thanks to a dull screenplay and absolutely no desire to challenge the audience with anything beyond trite emotions. The action is few and far between, though there are a few solid fight sequences that get pulled off. After the opening sequence the movie just sort off sits until a solid end sequence wraps it up and then an all-to-neat bow gets put on with two unneeded epilogues. I wish that Statham had been given an interesting character, but even his code of honor that sends him on he quest for revenge feels forced.
Surprisingly, Lopez is the best part of the film as she takes a character who should be damn near unbearably annoying and turns her into someone interesting. She actually saves a few lines of really bad dialog here and there, and makes Leslie the only really convincing character in the film. Statham on the other hand is forced to use one of the worst Texas accents ever caught on film for a good chunk of the movie. Any chances he has at showing that he can actually act are usually cut short by the filmmaker’s attempting to put bad one-liners in his mouth. Even the final dramatic sequence, which is one of the few parts of the film that held together, is robbed of its tension thanks to some terribly obvious foreshadowing previously in the film.
I’m not sure what was going on with Taylor Hackford’s direction in the film as he seems hardly able to keep a scene together and clearly didn’t have all the material he needed to put a cohesive film together. The movie jumps around more than a kid who just drank a gallon of Kool-Aid, and it’s way less fun to watch. He seems to not trust the audience to put anything together and thus fills scenes with needless exposition, dragging the movie out to a length far longer than it should be.
Most people probably don’t even know the original Parker character or the two movies that came before this so maybe they won’t miss the harder edge. What they will miss is strong dialog, cohesive directing and originality.