"I don't steal from those who can't afford it, I won't hurt those who don't deserve it". The latest edition to Jason Statham's annual butt-whoop-A-thon is Parker, and much like his role in The Mechanic, this one comes with a familiar history attached. Based on the novels by Donald Westlake, Parker has been seen on screen numerous times, with Mel Gibson playing him in Payback. He's a hard-nosed thug with a strict moral code, which could be plastered on the poster of practically every single film Statham has done. But it's a role he's perfectly suited for, and with a ton of talent in front of and behind the camera, Parker continues Statham's red-hot streak of bad ass action flicks.
Parker is an interesting character only because of his singular, narrow-minded focus. You cross him, and nothing on the planet will stop him from getting justice in equal measure. Parker, donning a ridiculous wig that must remind Statham fans of the London debacle, hooks up with a new crew put together by his mentor and stepfather, Hurley(a gravelly Nick Nolte). A screw up nearly ruins the job robbing the Ohio State Fair, and while making their getaway Parker is double-crossed by Melander(Michael Chiklis), who steals his share and leaves him for dead.
Guys like Parker are notoriously hard to kill, and despite being full of bullets it's only a matter of hours before he's choking out nurses and busting out of the hospital, revenge on his mind. Fitting in perfectly well in the gun crazy culture of the midwest, Parker follows his targets to Palm Beach, FL where a guy like him sticks out like a sore thumb. He can't just bull his way through town, and after donning another silly get-up as a Texas oil man(complete with 10-Gallon hat) born in Ecuador, he enlists the aid of struggling real estate agent Leslie Rogers(Jennifer Lopez) to navigate the territory.
It's a little tough at first to square away why exactly J-Lo is in this film. Although Oscar-nominated director Taylor Hackford takes every chance to show off her remarkable bod, the role isn't as sexy and glamorous as one might expect. It's actually quite a well-written part, with Leslie's loneliness and desperation drawing her closer into Parker's plan, which causes an additional headache since he happens to be married. The pseudo love triangle that develops, and the lingering question of his fidelity is a fun twist on what could have been a rote crime flick. Black Swan and Hitchcock scribe John J. McLaughlin deftly combines Westlake's hard-boiled crime fiction with Statham's on screen persona, finding moments of levity amidst all the violence.
Parker is a no-nonsense character, so Hackford smartly shoots the film efficiently and without frills, never shying away from some pretty brutal violence. Statham fans won't be disappointed in the number of skulls he gets to beat in, or the chemistry he shares with Lopez. It's easy to forget that she can be an excellent actress when given something to work with, and she makes the most out of what could have been a very thin role. Chiklis snarls his way through a standard bad guy part, while Nolte's voice is so rough now one has to wonder if he accidentally swallowed a car motor. Somehow it got even worse between Gangster Squad and this. It was nice to see veteran actress Patti LuPone on the big screen again as Leslie's mother.
Is Parker predictable? Absolutely, but nobody signs up to see Jason Statham do Shakespeare. We want to see him, and his receding hairline nobody is brave enough to talk about, plow his way through the bad guys never cracking a smile the whole time. His buddies in The Expendables all have solo movies coming out within weeks of Parker, but right now Statham is far and away Hollywood's most credible action star. With more than 20 novels featuring Parker as the lead, let's hope this isn't the last we've seen of him on the silver screen.