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by Jay Seaver

"Point blank, it's not very good at all."
2 stars

On its own, "Parker" isn't a particularly terrible movie. It's kind of filler on the calendar, and not close to the best work of stars Jason Statham and Jennifer Lopez, but also far from their worst. There's worse ways to spend two hours. But consider that this can be considered a sequel to "Point Blank" or "Payback", and it's apparent just how far off the standard it is.

Parker (Statham) is a veteran thief who, working with a new crew, heists roughly a million dollars from an Ohio state fair as the movie begins, although it doesn't go as smoothly as he would like - and that's before Melander (Michael Chiklis), one of his fellow thieves, pulls a double-crosses, takes the money to invest in a new caper, and leaves Parker for dead. He should know better, as Parker survives and tracks Melander and company to their next job in Palm Beach, eventually falling in with struggling realtor Leslie Rodgers (Lopez) as he plans to hijack the new score.

The protagonist of a long-running series of novels by Donald E. Westlake writing as Richard Stark, Parker has come to film before in many forms and under a variety of names (the only time Westlake allowed the character to be called "Parker" in an adaptation is in Darwyn Cooke's graphic novel versions; this adaptation of Flashfire was produced after Westlake's death), and that puts Jason Statham in an tough spot - Lee Marvin especially casts a long shadow (not to mention Mel Gibson, Robert Duvall, and others) even though Statham is playing a very different conception of the character. Statham's Parker has not so much been softened as smoothed out compared to the blunt force of nature he is elsewhere, and even done well, that's going to seem less exciting.

But even if one hasn't encountered Parker in one form or another before or doesn't know that Richard Stark was the name Westlake used for his harder-edged crime stories, the movie will likely seem too soft. Take a scene where Lopez's Leslie Rodgers lets Parker know she's on to him: I suspect her lines are coming directly from the book, because it's a great noir monologue, the likes of which have been heard from any number of femmes fatale, with some angry, bitter, it's time for me to get mine notes in it. It's a speech that should be delivered coolly while smoking a cigarette, not on the verge of tears while fumbling with a bottle of wine. It makes Lopez seem terribly miscast and has the side effect of playing up the softhearted side of Parker, who becomes a typical Jason Statham character (mostly businesslike though a white knight isn't far underneath), something that happens a lot when the movie would be much more thrilling if he were played as more ruthless and morally questionable.

Plus, this is a heist movie without a really good heist. The gambit that opens the movie is OK, if a little overly elaborate, involving both people disguised as clowns and someone disguised as a priest. What comes later is kind of rote, though - in particular, Melander's big score is a pretty boring smash-and-grab, and both it and what comes after suffer from a poor balance of fair-play set-up and surprise - we know enough to have an idea of what the plan and the main beats of the sequence will be, but the details aren't clever enough to fascinate and the things that go wrong don't lead to exciting improvisation.

There's a number of little things that just don't fit, either: Parker's girlfriend seems to get inappropriately younger with every scene she appears in. Michael Chiklis's Melander is an utterly generic antagonist. Nick Nolte plays her father and an old friend of Parker's, and I spent the movie feeling kind of embarrassed for him, wondering if he'd had a stroke and shouldn't be on-screen. The story jumps around America, from Columbus to New Orleans to Palm Beach with other stops in between, but never seems to make the distance feel right - at one point, it seems likes Columbus and New Orleans are right next door, and the geography of Palm Beach is treated as important enough to be mentioned frequently but not laid out.

Director Taylor Hackford and company do manage some things well - when violence erupts, it happens quickly and brutally; Parker is not to be messed with even by the vicious assassin sent after him (a slick, well-utilized Daniel Bernhardt). Statham and Lopez are the wrong people for the roles, but they do what's asked of them as well as they can. A lot of moment-to-moment things work, and the supporting cast - Wendell Pierce, Clifton Collins Jr. & Micah Hauptman in Melander's crew; Emma Booth as Parker's girlfriend; Patti LuPone as Leslie's mother and Bobby Cannavale as her would-be boyfriend - help keep things running smoothly.

Still, when something is as ill-conceived as this is movie is, that sort of competence mostly just makes the experience painless, as opposed to actively enjoyable. "Parker" would be unimpressive even without the big shoes it has to fill, but it's soon pretty clear that Westlake's master thief deserves better.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=23950&reviewer=371
originally posted: 01/27/13 12:12:21
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User Comments

8/28/14 Jamie I am female & loved this movie. Jennifer Lopez is great, Patti Lupone & JS -nice chemistry 4 stars
5/26/13 mr.mike Well done and one of JS's best 4 stars
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  25-Jan-2013 (R)
  DVD: 21-May-2013


  DVD: 21-May-2013

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