Jason Statham as Parker
Jennifer Lopez as Leslie Rodgers
Michael Chiklis as Melander
Wendell Pierce as Carlson
Clifton Collins Jr. as Ross
Bobby Cannavale as Jake Fernandez
Patti LuPone as Ascension
Carlos Carrasco as Norte
Micah A. Hauptman as August Hardwicke
Emma Booth as Claire
Nick Nolte as Hurley
Daniel Bernhardt as Kroll
Directed by Taylor Hackford
Parker (Jason Statham) is a thief with a conscience, but when his partners in an elaborate heist turn on him and leave him for dead, he swears to get revenge, not realizing that he’ll end up on the wrong side of a Chicago mob and having to turn to a Florida realtor (Jennifer Lopez) for help in his venture.
Over the course of 46 years, the late Donald B. Westlake wrote 24 novels starring the thief Parker, none of which I’ve read, and while his novels have been adapted into films before–remember Mel Gibson’s character in “Payback” or Lee Marvin in “Point Blank”?–this is the first movie where the character appears by the name “Parker,” presumably with all eyes on creating a franchise. Based on one of Westlake’s more contemporary novels, 2000’s “Flashfire,” it puts Jason Statham in the role of the master thief with a specific set of rules.
It starts with an elaborate heist of the Ohio State Fair with Parker dressed as a priest, working with four men he’d been paired with through his colleague, played by the ubiquitous Nick Nolte. The job doesn’t go without its problems but they get away with the money, which is meant to be split five ways. Parker’s colleagues have other plans and they turn on the thief, leaving him presumed dead by the side of the road. He survives the experience and as Parker starts going after the men who betrayed him, we meet Palm Beach realtor Leslie Rodgers (Jennifer Lopez), whose story isn’t particularly clear. She’s been having problems with money and she lives with her meddlesome mother (Broadway star Patti Lupone, slumming for a paycheck) and she gets involved with Parker when he comes down there to look at houses as part of his scheme for revenge.
The entire first half is muddled with a confusing narrative where you’re not sure who anyone is and why we’re spending so much time with them rather than the guys who ambushed Parker- something we flashback to more than once in case it’s been forgotten. There are more then a few aspects to the Parker character that make very little sense, the silliest one being the fact he can change his name slightly, slap on a cowboy hat, talk in a bad Texas accent and suddenly, he’s invisible to everyone looking for him including the authorities after committing so many crimes in the first half hour.
As ridiculous as that may sound, casting Statham as Westlake’s anti-hero was probably the one smart decision by the filmmakers since he’s one of the few actors who can pull off something so ridiculous. Granted, Statham is basically good at doing one particular thing very well, that’s enough to make him enjoyable in the role, although this is now his second bad movie in a row where he’s the only good thing, so maybe it’s time for the guy to get a new agent.
The same can’t be said for the casting of Jennifer Lopez as Parker’s unwitting accomplice, which immediately destroys any good will created from the first half of the movie. It’s not bad enough that Lopez spends much of the film screeching in a voice that’s like nails on a chalkboard, but the two of them have absolutely zero chemistry and the rom-com aspects to their scenes seems out of place. The rest of the cast does very little to elevate the weak script–and what on earth has happened to Michael Chiklis since “The Shield” that he barely delivers lines better than the three bad actors he’s been paired with on his team?
The direction by Taylor Hackford (“Ray”) leaves just as much to be desired as he muddles his way through the low-budget production that seems to have cut many corners in every department beyond the poor casting decisions. This includes having a cinematographer that can barely set up a frame and an editor unable to cut things together in a way that flows smoothly. Even small things like making Columbus, Ohio–where this writer has spent quite a bit of time–come across like Southern farmlands shows how little anyone cared about making a movie based in any sort of reality.
By the second half, one might start wondering what happened to Nolte’s character and Parker’s love interest Claire, played by Emma Booth, the latter there just to add a few sexy scenes that do little to advance the story. At one point, the bad guys from Chicago send an assassin after Claire for no particular reason, but she escapes and that’s all they do with that. She returns later to throw a damper in the awkward romance between Leslie and Parker but otherwise serves little purpose. Even more pointless is Bobby Canavale as a local cop who seems to be stalking Leslie; after showing up a few times to pester her, he disappears and has nothing to do with the grand finale.
While all this is going on, the guys who ditched Parker have been down in Palm Beach planning another heist, uninterrupted. It’s an even more elaborate heist than the earlier one at the fair, and as you watch them pull off this ridiculous heist, you may wonder how these guys could even function without Parker. He finally makes his presence known to get his revenge and take their haul, and while it might have been interesting to see how he gets away with it without having the authorities all over him, that’s where they choose to end the movie having squandered most of the movie on more pointless subplots.
For the most part, there’s very little suspense or tension in any of it except for when Parker fights with the assassin we saw earlier, and we get one of the coolest ass-kicking scenes of the movie. That’s roughly five minutes of an otherwise dull two-hour slog.
The Bottom Line:
Dull, bland and poorly directed, “Parker” is one of those movies that may have looked better on paper and probably should have stayed there.