Parker Outperforms Expectations Despite Director Interference
Starring: Jason Statham, Jennifer Lopez
Review written by Tom Bevis
Okay, okay. I’m not any happier about Jennifer Lopez being in a Jason Statham movie than you are, alright? Let’s just get that out of the way right now. For any men, Jennifer Lopez is a fun vacuum. Unless she’s in her undies, she just swallows up all the life from any scene she’s in, I get it. The good news is, she does strip down to her undies (doesn’t she always?), and luckily, she understands that she’s not the star of this movie. She gracefully plays second seat to Statham, and lets him do what he has to do. In fact, it takes her thirty minutes to even show up on screen (the movie is just under two hours, so that’s an entire quarter of the film that’s absolutely Lopez-free). Now, right off the bat, the movie is sounding better to you than it did just moments before, yeah?
Good. Because considering the other major releases this week (Movie 43, Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters), this may be your best bet.
Parker, at its roots, appears to be a revenge story. Granted, it’s a poorly produced revenge story, but that’s what it is. After pulling off a successful heist of one million dollars, Parker (Statham) is shot and left for dead after not agreeing to the next caper. After he awakens in a hospital, he begins a search to find the men who wronged him, oft citing “the world has rules, and the people who don’t follow the rules have to pay for what they done,” reluctantly recruiting a struggling real estate agent, Leslie (Lopez).
If this story sounds familiar, it’s because it is. Parker is based on the book The Hunter by Richard Stark (who you may know as Donald Westlake) and has been adapted into film not once, not twice, but thrice. The first being Point Blank in the sixties, the second being Payback in the nineties, and the third being Parker in the nows. Whether Statham did a better job than Lee Marvin or Mel Gibson is up for debate. I also can’t speak to whether this film follows the story any better than the two previous, as I haven’t read the damn thing. Feel free to email me on this regard and we’ll sort it out. But at least, unlike Marvin’s “Walker” and Gibson’s “Porter”, they kept the name of the character the same.
It should be noted that the Jason Statham in Parker is unlike the Jason Statham in Transporter or Crank. There are enough cool fights and shootouts here to keep fans of those films happy, but for the most part, Statham plays a more calculated, careful character, he’s a tracker searching for the men who wronged him. This change in pace is actually pretty refreshing. I would have pulled my hair out if I had to sit through the same movie Statham has been making for years, so on that regard, I’m glad they slowed it down a bit.
Jennifer Lopez, also, out performs my expectations. She’s not (too) annoying, she doesn’t try (too much) to be a sex symbol, and she doesn’t (completely) turn the movie into a love story.
Okay, those are half truths. All those things appear in the movie, but only in brief glimpses, mainly to illustrate that those things aren’t what the movie is about. I’m not kidding when I say that she has no problem not being the star of the movie. Being able to focus on just her role and not carrying the film allows her to better craft her character. Hell, she’s even remotely funny in a few scenes, and builds a believable betrayal of a determined-albeit-ignorant partner in crime to Statham’s Parker.
Also, can I just say, hell, Nick Nolte.
He’s really getting up there, isn’t he? Nolte plays Parker’s criminal connection and mentor, Hurley, who’s in the movie for maybe six minutes total. It was nice to see his face, even if it was bloated, yellow, and shiny.
Now that all of that business is out of the way, let’s talk about what’s wrong with this movie. The script is okay. It’s not great, it’s not terrible. I’d lean toward tolerable, and the performances help more to pull it off the camerawork or pacing. In movies, I’ve seen some great flashback scenes. In movies, I’m seen some awful flashback scenes. In Parker, the flashback scenes make no fucking sense. Every single one of them is pointless and serve only to slow the movie down. One or two of them take place before the events of the film, and can all be inferred contextually if those scenes were cut out.
The most annoying flashback, though, is the repetition of the crew betraying Parker. No doubt the writers and director all thought this continuous rehashing of a scene we’ve already seen in full would illustrate how angry and determined Parker was. Well, it made the audience angry, that’s for sure. I believe that Statham, as an actor, could have conveyed these emotions on screen without a gimmick as tacky as these flashbacks. Here, the director just got in the way and gummed up the works.
Actually, the director is awful. Everything that’s good about this film, I place on the shoulders of Westlake, Statham, and Lopez.
The film was just downright lazy in its presentation. All the camera work is straight-forward, no nonsense angles and shots. But it lacks life, it lacks dynamics. To put it frankly, it’s boring to watch. The director, Taylor Hackford, still seems inexperienced, despite having been in the director’s chair since the seventies. The only work of any real cinematic value he’s created is 2004’s Ray (although, he’s also responsible for The Devil’s Advocate from 1997, if that’s your thing).
Despite this lazy filmmaking, I’m still saying this is your best bet for new movies this weekend. If I’m going back on Saturday, you can bet I won’t be paying for Movie 43 or Hansel and Gretel. I recommend you do the same.