Jason Statham. I typically like him even if some of his movies are pretty bad. Even in the schlockiest of flicks, he's typically pretty cool, a badass action star who dispatches bad guys left and right. Can it be too much at times? It seems like we're seeing the same movie over and over again. I liked 2013's Parker, but it most definitely feels like 'been there, seen that.'
A professional thief with a unique code of thieving ethics, Parker (Statham) is a solid man to have on your team when trying to pull off a job. Through his well-connected father-in-law, Hurley (Nick Nolte), Parker accepts a job with four other thieves, men he hasn't worked with in the past. The job is successful as the crew takes down a packed cash room at the Ohio State Fair, but following the heist, the rest of the crew, including volatile Melander (Michael Chiklis), approaches Parker with an offer for a far more lucrative job. He doesn't like the sound of it and refuses, the team turning on him in the process, shooting him and leaving him for dead by the side of the road. Parker is seriously wounded, but he doesn't die, vowing to exact revenge on his betrayers. How to do it? Foul up the very job they had offered him.
From director Taylor Hackford and based off a Donald E. Weslake novel, 'Parker' is an enjoyable if unspectacular crime film. It isn't nearly as bad as some reviews make it out to be, nor is it as convoluted as some would lead you to believe. The story bounces around, never standing in one place too long and features solid amounts of action and shootouts, all capably done. I liked the cast, liked parts of the story, and what do I come away with? Meh, it was all right. For lack of a more descriptive wrap-up, 'Parker' is just sort of there. It doesn't jump off the screen and pull you in, doesn't have you at the edge of your seat as we wonder what's coming up next. 'Parker' is a well-made, capably done crime flick that still manages to be dull and more than a little lifeless.
It feels familiar which isn't always a bad thing, but this is a film that needed something more. Jason Statham fights and argues, mumbles and stares menacingly, beating the hell out of people as the story requires. As is so often the case, Statham is a more than suitable lead. As an action star, he has few rivals. His man of few words anti-hero is a seminal character in the action genre. Playing Parker, he does a solid job, his professional thief who has some Robin Hood-esque tactics. He lives by a code, taking what he's owed and nothing more, expecting his cohorts to work by the same code -- with varying results (crooks tend to be selfish and greedy, go figure). The only problem? We've seen this character in the Transporter series, the Crank series, Killer Elite, The Mechanic, The Expendables I and II, War, Safe and Blitz. Statham's good but a change of pace film couldn't hurt.
The rest of the cast is hit and miss. Jennifer Lopez is surprisingly pretty good as Leslie, a down on her luck Palm Beach real estate agent unknowingly brought into Parker's elaborate plan of revenge. She has a good chemistry with Statham and blends well with the story although the script does find a way to get her down to her bra and panties. Nolte is wasted, given little to do but growl his lines unfortunately. Chiklis is always an imposing presence but similarly given nothing to do with Wendell Pierce, Clifton Collins Jr. and Micah A. Hauptman as his fellow conniving crooks. Patti LuPone plays Ascencion, Leslie's nagging mother while Bobby Cannavale is a cop with eyes on Leslie, but nice eyes, not menacing "I'm a cop so you have to do what I say" eyes if that makes any sense.
Beyond just saying the movie isn't good because it's too familiar, 'Parker' does have its flaws. The pacing can be frenetic at times, moving at breakneck speeds because it can, especially in the first hour. Plot advances without any real explanation or reality, just bouncing to bounce. As good as Lopez is, too much time is spent on her background and her money woes. In general, there's just too much going on with too many characters, twists and turns in a meandering story. The action is good, bloody and vicious, especially the finale as Parker's plan comes together and Statham's earlier scene with a hitman (Daniel Bernhardt) in a Palm Beach hotel room. Something is missing from the word 'go' though. Something doesn't translate. It is a decent enough time waster, but nothing more unfortunately.
Parker (2013): ** 1/2 /****