Parker is a wild thrill ride with far more surprises than disappointments. Sure it is violent as hell, but it is an entertaining adventure.
Rating: While it is another one of those films that can be seen anywhere, track it down in the theater and enjoy the experience of other patrons’ moans and laughter.
Unfortunately, it is impossible to review this many movies and not occasionally repeat yourself. I truly try to avoid that, but most of you have probably witnessed my shortcomings. With that in mind, let me repeat my observation that there are occasional films that embrace the audience with complete surprise. Without question, Director Taylor Hackford’s Parker is one of those overlooked delights, much like Brad Pitt in last year’s Killing Them Softly.
Yes, you have probably read that it did poorly on its first weekend of release, but that is a qualification without meaning. True, you have to accept the fact that it earns its R rating because of profound violence, but it never, ever will lose your attention. Even if violence is not your cup of tea, swallow your pride, cover your eyes occasionally and you will not be disappointed.
Additionally, who would have ever imagined that a crime caper starring Jason Statham and Jennifer Lopez would run rings around similarly released recent films that were wrapped in misleading, promotional gloss. Think of Allen Hughes’ Broken City, which has all stars and no substance. Even though I have yet to force myself to see it, Gangster Squad has died at the box office despite a spectacular cast ranging from Sean Penn to Ryan Gosling to Emma Stone. Then there was Tom Cruise in Jack Reacher, which sunk faster than Richard Mourdock’s Indiana Senate campaign.
The reasons for the success of Parker begin with Director Hackford. Though he hasn’t directed many films in his career, all you need to do is think of An Officer and A Gentleman (1982) and Ray (2004) to understand his talent.
The plot of Parker is both involved and sinister, and deals with a robbery that goes terribly wrong at the Ohio State Fair. The band of crooks, led by Michael Chiklis, turn on their angry cohort Mr. Statham, and they leave him for dead. However, if you’re really going to kill Statham, it would be advisable to do what Magua (Wes Studi) did to his enemies in The Last of the Mohicans (1992), namely eat their heart to leave no doubt.
What follows is Mr. Statham’s determination to seek revenge, and he uses the help of Nick Nolte, here playing the father of Statham’s girlfriend. The story is continually as interesting as it is clever, and it will keep you constantly involved until the outcome.
However, there is an irresistible sense of humor that continually resonates in the film, and one of them involves a scene shown in the previews. In short, when the shocked Jennifer Lopez asks the unapologetic Mr. Statham, “How do you sleep at night?”, Statham replies, “I never drink coffee after 7.”
As another example, there was a response from a crook who specialized in forging documents. When, as he faced Statham’s gun, he begged for his life while stating that he would not betray Statham, he further said, “I’ll be like Sweden, I won’t betray you.” Statham, looking a bit puzzled, replied, “You mean Switzerland, don’t you?”
But the success of this film centers on the appeal of Mr. Statham, who here is almost as physically scarred as Sparky, the reincarnated dog, in Frankenweenie. He dons various disguises, from that of a priest to a preening Texas multimillionaire hunting for an estate in West Palm Beach. However, regardless of his ruthlessness, he never loses his identification with working class people, some of whom need his assistance in surviving his robberies.
I must confess that I am a fan of Mr. Statham since his debut in the very funny gangster flick, Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (1998). While he has appeared in some foolish films, take a look at the following and then see what you think of him. I’m speaking of Snatch (2000); The Transporter (2002)and Transporter 2 (2005); The Italian Job (2003); and The Bank Job (2008). In a sense, he constantly resembles James Bond’s bipolar brother.
As for Jennifer Lopez herself, ignore the previews that lead you to believe that there is some cheap sexual interaction between her and Mr. Statham. Without giving anything away, Statham is committed first and foremost to his girlfriend, and he won’t dishonor his word by pursuing a roll in the hay with Ms. Lopez, a woman otherwise available.
And I must point out that Ms. Lopez helps to reestablish a staggering career by playing a divorced real estate agent dancing on the edge of bankruptcy. Sure, she risks what’s left of her reputation by looking for an occasional escape through booze and a regrettable sexual encounter, but she is all the more appealing for her weaknesses.
More to the point, Ms. Lopez’ gutsy performance is a reminder why beautiful actresses need more than simply a hot body to succeed in film. Somebody needs to remind Jennifer Aniston of her hysterical performance in Horrible Bosses (2011), and it wouldn’t hurt for the same person to tell Katherine Heigl that there is a reason why few movie fans today remember the career of Doris Day.
Make no mistake, you certain are free to criticize Parker from the strange disappearance late in the film by Mr. Nolte, as well as the fact that Statham has an incredible ability to quickly recover from vicious wounds. However, Director Hackford keeps the plot so brisk that you really don’t care. It’s a wild ride, so find a seat.