While Parker resembles little of its hard-boiled crime source material, in a way Jason Statham is a perfect choice for the lead. Like the anti-hero at the center of twenty four Donald E. Westlake novels, Statham has shown a workmanlike dedication to mid-level action movies, ranging from the flashy to the absurd. Sadly, Parker falls in the exact midpoint of that range, managing to be both bland and outlandish.
Parker (Statham), is a thief with a sociopathic “moral code” that allows stealing and murder as a form of dispassionate justice. Somehow (we really don’t know), this outlook is adopted by Parker from his mentor Hurley (Nick Nolte), who sets him up with a new group of criminals for a heist. This crew, led by Melander (Michael Chiklis), turns on Parker and leaves him for dead. Of course the score must be settled, and Parker heads to Palm Beach to hijack the crew’s next job. While there he meets and partners with an equally desperate and corrupt real estate agent, Leslie (Jennifer Lopez).
Like numerous action stars before him, Statham brings his usual blank expressions and dry accent, but there is not a single standout performance in this film. Everyone involved is almost laughably bad, and Lopez does herself no favors wandering out of her rom-com comfort zone. The overly formulaic nature of the film is also bogged down with a screenplay that at best recycles the nonsensical aspects of other more enjoyable works in the heist genre.
I pity anyone interested in the character of Parker as he exists in Darwyn Cooke’s graphic adaptations of Donald E. Westlake’s original novels. A mix of classic crime and noir, Cooke’s take on the source material manages to be stylish and fun. Fans of Cooke’s Parker will find neither in this film incarnation, which indulges in the most base aspects of Westlake’s tales, rather than the clever and gray morality.
Additionally, the film’s crass treatment of women as sex objects is troubling. Parker continually tells the women around him exactly what to do, and Leslie is physically threatened in a way that feels like a non-sequitur. While the characters have a cavalier misogynistic attitude when it comes to using women, even less forgivable is the camera’s. We can speculate that Lopez has a certain number of “booty shots” agreed to contractually, but such blatant caressing of the “male gaze” seems more befitting a movie made closer to Parker’s 1962 novel debut than 2013.
There is really nothing to recommend here, as the action scenes are few in number and do little to elevate the film to anything resembling an entertaining popcorn flick. That’s right, Parker doesn’t aim high enough to be “expendable.”
Parker is now playing in Philly-area theaters.