PARKER (2013)

MOVIE REVIEW:  PARKER (2013)
By Michael Arruda

 PARKER poster

It’s all about the rules.

In PARKER (2013), the latest action flick starring Jason Statham, super thief Parker follows a strict code of rules which he expects others to follow as well.  As he tells his friend Hurley, if he lets people break their promises to him, he’ll lose all credibility.  In Parker’s world, if you say you’re going to do something, do it, because if you don’t, he’ll hold you accountable.

In the film’s opening sequence, Parker (Jason Statham) and his associates rob a country fair.  Parker assures the hostages that if they do exactly as he says, they won’t get hurt, and he means it.  He’s a thief with honor.  Too bad the same can’t be said of his partners.

During the getaway, one of these partners, Melander (Michael Chiklis) informs Parker that rather than split the money they just stole as originally planned, he wants to use it to fund a bigger job, a job that will pay them millions, down in Palm Beach, Florida.  Parker wants no part of this, since this wasn’t part of the original agreement.  Those rules again.  This doesn’t sit well with Melander and his three buddies, who are all into the job, and so they shoot Parker and leave him for dead by the side of the road.

But Parker is quickly rescued by a passing farmer and his family, who take him to a hospital.  Parker regains consciousness and immediately escapes from the hospital, making his way to his friend and mentor, Hurley (Nick Nolte), to learn more about the guys who betrayed him.  Hurley warns Parker to leave these guys alone, because they have powerful friends in the Chicago mob, but Parker dismisses the warning and vows to get both vengeance and his money.

Parker travels to Palm Beach in search of Melander and his goons, and he hooks up with a real estate agent, Leslie Rodgers (Jennifer Lopez), under the pretense that he’s a rich Texan looking to buy a home in Palm Beach, when in reality he’s searching for the home Melander has bought as his hideaway, where he and his men can lay low for a while after they pull off their diamond heist.

Hot on Parker’s trail is an assassin sent by the Chicago mob, a killer who also has on his hit list Parker’s girlfriend, Claire (Emma Booth), who happens to be Hurley’s daughter.  Things grow more complicated when real estate agent Leslie figures out what Parker is up to, and reveals to him that she’s sick of her life, which is going nowhere, and that she wants to help him find Melander for a cut of the money.

Parker accepts her help, and together they search for Melander and try to thwart his diamond heist caper, all the while remaining a step ahead of the mob assassin.

While some of the plot points in PARKER don’t make a lot of sense, this is a case where the movie as a whole is better than the sum of its parts, and this is because of the presence of Jason Statham.

I’ve heard complaints that Statham always plays the same role, and that he lacks charisma.  In terms of playing the same role, I think most action stars, from Arnold Schwarzenegger to Clint Eastwood, play variations of themselves in their movies.  I don’t have a problem with this, as long I like their personalities.

Statham is colder than most, much closer to Eastwood’s persona than a guy like Schwarzenegger, but it works for me.  I also find Statham believable in these roles.  When he beats up the bad guys, I totally buy it.  When he survives bullet wounds and knife wounds, I believe it.  Why?  Because he looks like the unstoppable supermen he’s portraying.

Not only don’t I have a problem with Jason Statham, but I think he’s one of the better action stars making movies today.

PARKER, directed by Taylor Hackford, a guy who’s been making movies for a long time, is a slick-looking production, easy on the eyes, and it includes some decent fight scenes, although none of them will knock your socks off.  There’s one nasty bit when Parker battles the mob assassin, and a knife goes through his hand.  I’m also happy to say that most of the blood in this one looked realistic, as it wasn’t the CGI style blood we’ve been seeing so much of lately.

PARKER is based on the novel by Donald E. Westlake, who wrote a series of novels featuring the Parker character.  John J. McLaughlin wrote the screenplay, fresh off writing the screenplay for HITCHCOCK (2012), and it’s here where the movie runs into its share of problems.  While there’s plenty of decent dialogue in the movie, the actual plot, although enjoyable, does have some issues with credibility.

For starters, when Melander first decides to kill Parker, he orders his wimpiest man to do the job, to walk to the side of the road and put a bullet in Parker’s head.  This made no sense to me.  Send your best guy, for crying out loud!  It’s obviously just a way to have Parker survive.  Worse yet, we have to believe that this shooter standing over Parker at point blank range somehow missed, or at least failed to inflict a fatal wound.  This is one plot point that I didn’t buy at all.

Also, the whole storyline with the Jennifer Lopez character, Leslie, didn’t really work for me.  She shows up late in the movie, and we’re asked to believe that she’s a loser in a dead end life.  Really?  It’s difficult to picture Jennifer Lopez as a loser, a woman desperate enough to buddy up with a violent thief, as if that’s the answer to her problems, and worse yet, we’re supposed to believe that Parker would accept the help of an amateur.  Not buying any of it.

Plus, it’s a wasted relationship since Parker is clearly involved with Claire, who continuously shows up to patch up his wounds and bruises.  It’s not really a love triangle because Parker is never interested in Leslie.

Then there’s the diamond heist that Melander plans.  It’s so improbable, yet so bold, that I wanted to know more about it.  I found myself wishing the film was more about the plans to pull off the job, because it was far more interesting than anything Parker was doing.  Screenwriter McLaughlin probably avoided the details here because it was such a far-fetched impossible plan.

The cast is okay.  You can’t go wrong with Statham, but Jennifer Lopez is miscast in what turns out to be a thankless role.  The other drawback here is that Statham and Lopez don’t really share a lot of onscreen chemistry.  Statham has more chemistry with Emma Booth as Claire, and I wish she had been in the movie more.  She was a more interesting character than Lopez’s Leslie.

Michael Chiklis runs hot and cold as bad guy Melander.  At times, he’s sufficiently bloodthirsty and ruthless, and other times he’s just plain dumb, like when he sends his weakest guy to kill Parker. Duh!

Daniel Bernhardt also makes for an ineffective assassin, Kroll, who’s supposed to be the best killer in the Chicago mob, yet he can’t even kill Parker’s girlfriend Claire, as she runs circles around him and easily escapes his clutches.

PARKER is one of those movies where the more you think about it, the more you realize it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, but while you’re watching it, you don’t care because the film as a whole, and Jason Statham in particular, both pack a punch.

So, in spite of its flaws, I found PARKER to be a hard-hitting movie that showed some oomph and displayed an edge, even when stuck in a story that didn’t always work. I also enjoyed the character of Parker, brought to life by a convincing Jason Statham.

For me, believability is key, and when Parker says “you’ll get hurt if you don’t do what I say,” I believed him.

I give it three knives.

—END—

© Copyright 2013 by Michael Arruda

Michael Arruda gives PARKER ~three knives.

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