Director: Taylor Hackford.
Starring: Jason Statham, Jennifer Lopez, Michael Chiklis, Nick Nolte, Wendell Pierce, Patti LuPone.
Written by: John J. McLaughlin and (novel “Flashfire” by Donald E. Westlake.
Running Time: 118 mins
Release date: 8th March 2013
Let me get this out in the open, right from the start. I am a big Jason Statham fan. His films, I would say, were the ultimate guilty pleasure. You know they are utter nonsense and ludicrous and sometimes so bad they are good and his acting range goes between Cockney geezer to Cockney Geezer with a slight American twang. But they are mindlessly entertaining and while there try to do the same and fail. The reason his films work is because he never once takes himself seriously. Which is why Parker is such a disappointment. In the realms of The Stath’s usual low stand ands, this is, well, just ordinary.
Parker is a robber who, working with a gang, steal the takings at a local State Fair. Parker’s philosophy is that he never steals from those who can’t afford to be stolen from and no one should get hurt, especially those who are working hard for their money. Getting away with a million, one of the gang members gives Parker an ultimatum; to use the money for a bigger and lucrative job. Parker refuses, wanting his cut. The gang aren’t happy and leave Parker for dead at the side of the road. Parker is a man you just don’t do that to and wants his money and revenge. Tracking the gang down to Florida, he uses local estate agent, Leslie Rodgers, to unwitting help find them.
Based on a character created by pulp fiction writer Donald E. Westlake, who has been popping up in films previously, like John Boorman’s excellent Point Blank, The Outfit and, more recently, Mel Gisbon’s Payback, Statham would be the perfect actor to take on the role. Throw into the mix, acclaimed director Taylor Hackford, the man who gave us An Officer and a Gentleman and Ray, as well as being Mr Helen Mirren. All the boxes are being ticked so far.
Then add, for glamour, Jennifer Lopez, who, while not the greatest actress in the world, still is easy on the eye, even if she is hitting 40. Parker can’t be anything but a rip-roaring success. Well no.
The trouble is, it’s just comes across as another revenge thriller. It doesn’t give us anything different from what we have seen already. We have the setup, some violence, more plot, more violence, the meeting of the stars, a dodgy Texan accent even for Statham, Lopez stripping and the pay-off, which is even more violence. Ask me to tell you the high point and I have to shrug my shoulders. It’s all very much of a muchness.
And there the thing. Where films like The Transporter or Crank scored highly is that the actions sequences were different, if sometimes beyond lunacy. Who can forget The Stath knocking a bomb from under his car by using a jump and a crane in Transporter 2. Completely improbable but who cared. Here we get nothing like it. We get fist fights and knife fights but none stick in the mind. They wash over us. And in a two hour film, there’s quite a few. They are handled well but you feel you want more.
It is also surprisingly lacking in humour. I know that previous incarnations of the character have been tough and humourless, especially Point Blank but it was made up for with style and Lee Marvin’s sense of menace. Here we long for the two leads to bounce off each other but it never comes. She looks scared, he grunts in mock Texan until his cover is blown then grunts in Cockney. That’s it. So without the sharp one-liners, the witty repartee it just becomes a brutal thriller that once you have left the cinema, you can’t honestly remember much of what you watched.
Maybe I wanted more. Maybe I was expecting more. Could I have gone into a Jason Statham film with high expectations? Possibly. This isn’t an awful film, just compared to his back catalogue, it’s far from his best.