Jan 30, 2013

Statham is an action hero for our time.


Grade: B

Director: Taylor Hackford (Ray)

Screenplay: John J. McLaughlin (Hitchcock, Black Swan) from a Donald E. Westlake novel

Cast: Jason Statham (The Transporter), Jennifer Lopez (Gigli)

Rating: R

Runtime: 118 min.

by John DeSando

“Beers and jewels, Baby” (Parker)

. . . and a few bodies make this boilerplate thriller/revenge piece of action enjoyable, at least in the dead zone of January, the dumping ground for loser films. Yet, Parker is not a loser film because its eponymous hero (Jason Statham) is not a loser; rather he’s one bearded cool cat, who pulls heists with a set of principles deadlier than a gun or almost as deadly as his hands. Add a toilet tank and shower curtain to the arsenal, and you get an idea about how this actioner is a bit unusual.

Any thriller that starts out with a heist at the Ohio State Fair can’t be all that bad, and it isn’t.  While acclaimed director Taylor Hackford (Ray) stylishly sets up numerous hairbreadth’s escapes for the irritated Parker, acclaimed writer John J. McLaughlin (Black Swan) offers clipped comments such as the one above to keep the hero laconic and coiled. While I may be only one of a few critics who liked Christopher McQuarrie’s Jack Reacher, Parker’s adaptation from Donald E. Westlake novel, Flashfire (as Richard Stark), has Elmore Leonard’s quirky small-time crooks. Parker has some of the same outrageous flare. With John Boorman’s Point Blank having adapted Westlake’s The Hunter, nothing but good pedigree resides in Parker.

Besides providing Parker with a reasonably hip and hippy femme fatale, Leslie (Jennifer Lopez), the film does the unusual by keeping him away from her and devoted to his girlfriend, Claire (Emma Booth).  Hooray for the real amid this unreal story: some dudes, even ones in white cowboy hats, love exclusively.

Parker has minor characters somewhat lost in the Statham-Lopez celebrity: Bobby Cannavale plays a good-hearted West Palm cop with a yen for Leslie; Michael Chiklis is Melander, a shaved-headed ( like our hero) baddie pulling a jewel heist after he screws over Parker in the Ohio State job. Both actors deserve more face time.

Although “Pizza—I love that s__t” is not a great line, it does represent the real mixed with the fantasy, hallmarks of an enjoyable thriller that will never be considered great.  But you’ll not forget Statham’s Parker.  Now that counts for something.

John DeSando co-hosts WCBE 90.5’s It’s Movie Time and Cinema Classics, which can be heard streaming and on-demand at

He also appears on Fox 28’s Man Panel.

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