Jason Statham really needs a trademark or catchphrase. Arnold had, "I'll be back"; Stallone had, "Yo, Adrian"; Chuck Norris the roundhouse kick and his meme; Van Damage could do the splits; Steven Segal had girly running and being fat. What's Statham's? Being likable in mediocre movies?
Statham continues that trend in Parker. Parker is a no-nonsense thief that has a code: he doesn't steal from people that can't afford it, and doesn't hurt people that don't deserve it. That doesn't stop him from constantly stealing people's cars. He even steals a minivan from a soccer mom. That's stealing from someone that can afford it? You don't know if she has insurance. Anyway, after a job where his team robs an Ohio state fair, they double-cross him and leave him for dead. The tone is set with the bad dialog and over-the-top sneering of the bad guys. Really, Michael Chiklis? You're better than this. During the double-cross, Parker gets shot several times and throws himself from a speeding car. They double back to finish him off, shoot him again, and leave him for dead. Later in the film, when the guy that shot him finds out he's still alive he reacts with blind rage. This is what you get for not shooting him in the head. Typical, inept movie bad guys.
Parker has untold recovery abilities that rival Wolverine. In just a few hours he seems to have completely recovered from his injuries, and is back to kicking everyone's ass as he's out for revenge. This isn't any more silly or ridiculous than any classic, 80's action flick, and if that's all Parker was about, I probably would have enjoyed it.
Meanwhile, Jennifer Lopez stars in a completely different movie about a real estate agent that has money problems, and lives with her soap opera addicted mother. I'm not kidding when I say it's a completely different movie. The tone of her arc is the polar opposite of Parker's, and her scenes are in a completely different state with no awareness at all of Parker or what he's dealing with.
Eventually, the two of them are clumsily brought together in a totally contrived and convoluted plot that takes entirely too long to play out. Parker is now posing as a wealthy Texan looking to buy a house, but the way this is executed I honestly thought he was playing a completely different character, and the movie was going to have some weird mistaken identity plot with people confusing Parker with this Texan. I'm actually kind of disappointed that isn't what happened.
The scenes with Lopez weigh the movie down so much that you often forget you're watching an action movie. In fact, it felt like her role was expanded simply to justify getting a big name like Jennifer Lopez. They even give her an overly dramatic scene where she laments about how horrible her life is, how she can't meet a man (even though a cop played by Bobby Cannavale hits on her in every scene he's in), and doesn't care if she dies. Parker makes her strip to check her for a wire, which felt like an opportunity for Lopez to show us she's still in really good shape. There's no chemistry at all between her and Statham, and since Parker already has a girlfriend (also a totally unnecessary role) you know there's no chance they are going to hook up. Hell, the role didn't even need to be played by a woman. It was completely unnecessary to the film, and if they had taken every scene of Lopez, and his girlfriend, out of the film, you would have had a much tighter and more entertaining action film.
What I didn't realize going in that Parker was based on the same character and series of novels by Donald Westlake (a.k.a Richard Stark). This is the same character played by Mel Gibson in the far superior Payback (which I'm watching again on Netflix as I'm writing this). It was interesting for me to learn this, because of the double cross and revenge angle of Parker, I constantly compared this to Payback.
What really confounds me is that this was directed by Taylor Hackford, who directed Ray and The Devil's Advocate, and the screenplay was written by John J. McLaughlin, who wrote Hitcock and Black Swan. Something doesn't add up. It has a decent setup, but is completely ruined with a predictable plot that gets worse the longer the movie goes on. Parker is almost two hours long and it has no business being more than 90 minutes.
There isn't nearly enough action in the film, but when there is, that's the strength of the film. Statham always brings it when it comes to fighting, and the fights here are brutal and entertaining. When there isn't action, Statham sleepwalks through his scenes as if even he was bored with the lack of action. I did find it odd that once again, they used really bad CG blood and gunshots in a few places. I don't get why films are doing this when it looks so awful. Is it cheaper to use CG now?
The supporting cast is wasted as well. They get guys like Michael Chiklis, Wendell Pierce and Clifton Collins Jr. to play the bad guys, but all they do is sneer and are about as generic as bad guys come. Nick Nolte plays Parker's mentor, but he was clearly out of it. In his introductory scene, he goes to shake the hand of Parker's girlfriend, who was his daughter! They did one of those awkward handshakes that became a hug, and I couldn't understand why they just didn't do another take. "Remember Mr. Nolte, this character is your daughter. You aren't meeting her for the first time." Don't tell me this was the best take.
Parker has a contrived and convoluted plot bogged down with a completely unnecessary Jennifer Lopez, who appeared to be in another film entirely. Parker fans are likely to be disappointed in a very run of the mill action film that wastes a promising setup, and lacks enough action to be truly entertaining. It's a rental at best.
1.5 (out of 5) Death Stars