Movie and Film Reviews (MFR) Action,Thrillers Movie Review of ‘Parker’ (2013)

Movie Review of ‘Parker’ (2013)

To the untrained eye, 2013’s Parker looks like just another Jason Statham vehicle; a completely unremarkable action fiesta that may as well have gone straight to video. In actuality, while the film delivers all the requisite elements associated with Statham’s typical output, Parker is more of a revenge thriller – it’s grittier and more grounded than the cartoonish Crank pictures, and more intense and gruffer than theTransporter trilogy. The plot trudges through familiar territory, but it benefits from the fine directorial touch of Taylor Hackford, who creates a smooth, slick ride, vehemently R-rated and frequently enjoyable. Parker is a bit of a mess which falls short of its potential, but it’s never a deflating disappointment, as it moves at a decent pace and maintains an agreeable sense of cinematic escapism to make it a fun sit.

The titular Parker (Statham) is a career criminal who adheres to a strict moral code, choosing to rob only those who can afford it, and never hurting innocent people in the process. Pulling off a heist at the Ohio State Fair with a group of thieves, Parker is screwed over for his cut of the money after refusing to take part in an impending jewel heist worth tens of millions of dollars. Parker is shot and left for dead by the no-good Melander (Michael Chiklis) and the rest of his gang, but, of course, Parker is not quite dead. Recovering from his wounds, he sets out to get revenge simply for the principal of it. Learning of Melander’s next heist in West Palm Beach, Florida, Parker heads to the area hoping to thwart the plan, disguising himself as a wealthy Texan to avoid suspicion. Parker soon meets Leslie (Jennifer Lopez), a financially destitute real estate agent who manages to sniff out his game and demands to be cut in on the deal for a small slice of the take.

Written by John J. McLaughlin, Parker is an adaptation of Donald E. Westlake’s book Flashfire, a constituent of the long-running series of Parker novels. Parker has appeared in films before, most notably in 1967’s Point Blank and in the 1998 Mel Gibson actioner Payback. But while the same character appears in those films, he is not named Parker – indeed, this movie denotes the first time that the character has been properly named in cinema. McLaughlin’s script briskly establishes the type of man that Parker is, with the introductory heist highlighting the titular character’s desire to keep things peaceful (he even personally comforts a hysterical witness and reassures everyone that he’s not interested in killing). The real essence of the Parker character is nailed here, which is a huge asset, and leaves us hoping for sequels (that will probably never happen). However, a few aspects of the narrative are short-changed. Most confusing is the character of Hurley (Nick Nolte), who ostensibly set up the initial fair heist but seems ignorant of the outcome. Narrative momentum also takes a nose dive once Leslie enters the film, as her character feels better suited for a romantic comedy than a hardboiled action-thriller.

Regardless of the storytelling flaws, Hackford’s visual treatment of the material is close to perfect. An Oscar-nominated director, Hackford executes the picture with energy, finesse and mood, not to mention he embraces the R rating with open arms. Parker is the furthest thing from a sanitised PG-13 endeavour – rather, it’s a viciously violent actioner, with gory gunshot wounds and a handful of brutal hand-to-hand combat sequences. The centrepiece involves Parker brawling with a goon in a high-rise hotel room; the ensuing sequence is stunningly choreographed and technically flawless, especially the blood effects, which will make you cringe when a knife is impaled through Parker’s hand. Parker was produced on a modest budget, and occasionally this is obvious, but for the most part the movie looks attractive and skilfully-assembled, especially the heroically violent action set-pieces that genre fanatics will adore.

Like Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger before him, Statham is the kind of action hero who makes any movie better with his distinct screen presence. Given a meaty role to chew on for once, Statham is a cool, deadly Parker, and he also seems to have a firm grasp on the character. It’s a solid performance from the star whose brand of machismo and charm kept this reviewer engaged in his plight. Unfortunately, Lopez is less successful. She’s not dreadful, but she doesn’t shine as Leslie either, and one must wonder if a more competent actress could’ve done a better job and improved the overall quality of the movie as a result. The rest of the actors are solid, though. Nolte is his usual badass self, while Chiklis gives a believably menacing edge to his villainous role.

Parker had the potential to be an extremely interesting film noir masterpiece, but somewhere along the line it transformed into more of a fun actioner with a few strokes of unique personality. It’s definitely serviceable in this way thanks to some stunning set-pieces and competent craftsmanship, but more sophistication could have improved the finished product.

6.3/10

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