Film Review: Parker
Historically Jason Statham films have been released on a pretty stable schedule. Almost without fail his film’s are released in two periods of the year; January through April and August through October. Other than that the calendar is otherwise pretty much Statham free. That’s why when you see a Jason Statham film being released during what is normally considered a theatrical dead zone you shouldn’t necessarily think it’s because it’s a crummy movie, it’s because the studio follows a specific formula (Statham + Off Season Release Date = Cash).
After pulling a daring heist, a career criminal is betrayed by his co-conspirators and left for dead. Instead of moving on with his life he decides to get revenge by hatching a daring plan to get what is owed to him.
Most Jason Statham characters have a lot in common with each other; they’re charming, physically gifted, have a unique moral code, a beautiful and understanding girlfriend, an older father figure that taught them the ropes, and have some kind of military or criminal past that they’re trying to escape so he and the aforementioned girlfriend can live out the rest of their lives in quiet luxury. Parker is not an exception to that rule, in fact it’s further proof that he’s been playing the same character for almost a decade. What sets Parker apart is the fact that it’s the best Statham headlined film since 2008’s The Bank Job.
It may be business as usual on screen for Statham, but nevertheless Parker might be one of the most balanced films in Statham’s career thanks large in part to the direction of Taylor Hackford. Best known for his work on An Officer and a Gentleman, Dolores Claiborne, and the Ray Charles biopic Ray, Hackford brings a lot of maturity to Parker while still remaining entertaining. It’s no surprise that two of Statham’s best recent performances have come at the hands of seasoned directors like that of Roger Donaldson on The Bank Job.
The script, by Black Swan writer John J. McLaughlin, effectively takes author Donald E. Westlake’s Parker character and adapts him to fit Statham’s strengths. Hackford and McLauglin make the right decisions on how much humor, action, and drama they inject into the film and time it appropriately. Rarely did Parker take itself too seriously, there are plenty of opportunities for humor but it never becomes too tongue-in-cheek.
Despite Statham’s limited range he’s enjoyable to watch. Most of the supporting cast is made up of strong ensemble players; some are household names like Michael Chiklis, Nick Nolte, and Clifton Collins Jr. Others like Emma Booth and Micah Hauptman aren’t as well known but still deliver enjoyable performances. Parker’s weakest link is Jennifer Lopez; she just felt completely wrong for the film from top to bottom. Her presence in Parker reeks of desperation to be seen in something other than a romantic comedy. Lopez and Statham have no chemistry together; their platonic relationship adds about as much excitement to the story as her character’s car repossession storyline… in other words, none. Women and Latinos may be more interested in checking out Parker with her name attached to the project, but the film itself doesn’t benefit from her inclusion.
It doesn’t feature non-stop action, but Parker is no slouch either. Statham is a more human hero than in many of his previous films; he’s not the invincible Superman type action star we’ve seen so many times before. If there’s an area where the action suffers however it’s in the form of some questionable CGI. More than once there are some jarringly cheap looking special effects that look absolutely ridiculous by 2013 standards, even for a modestly budgeted action film.
Parker doesn’t re-invent the action film, but I doubt many people expected it to. If you enjoy a well produced action film or Jason Statham films in general than it’s a pretty safe bet that Parker is going to suit your needs. Taylor Hackford’s direction is a pleasant surprise, Statham continues show that he’s this generations Arnold or Sly, and overall Parker is a fun film that hits most of the right notes.