Action film aficionados feel it took far too long, but finally, the posers are outed. When it is necessary to bring The Arnold and Sly Stallone out of the mothball closet and dust them off to rejuvenate the action genre, it is a clear sign Matt Damon, Keanu Reeves, Mark Wahlberg and Tom Cruise, the stars Hollywood deemed carriers of the action mantel, just couldn’t get the job done. Even now, Tinseltown’s biggest action stars are 60 year old Liam Neeson and Bruce Willis, who, thankfully, never fully abandoned his action star persona. With both Jet Li and Jackie Chan in semi-retirement, and Tony Jaa, with massive language barriers, unable to break into American cinema, action fans really have only Jason Statham as the real deal; and in his latest “Parker”, he does not disappoint.
Parker is a character created by author Donald E. Westlake. He considered himself a more intellectual writer, but had a strong desire to pen pulp fiction. When he did so, he utilized the nom de plume Richard Stark. Parker appears in over a half dozen Stark novels. Movie audiences may remember him best in the guise of Mel Gibson, in “Payback”. That was based off a Parker/Stark novel called “The Hunter”. For movie purposes, Gibson’s character’s name was changed to Porter. Don’t ask why. To this day, it’s probably one of Gibson’s best roles.
“Parker” will seem highly familiar to folks who remember “Payback”. Once again, people decide to screw Parker out of his cut for a job recently done and leave him for dead. Once again, Parker doesn’t die, and begins a violent, bloody quest to regain the money due him. A very similar theme to “Payback”, though this tale is based on a completely different novel, “Flashfire”. You think word would spread through the crime syndicates of Parker’s resilience and penchant for revenge.
This time in turning printed page to celluloid, Parker keeps his real name and is played by Statham. He follows the Chuck Norris Method Acting procedure of keeping lines of dialogue terse and letting his fists, and feet, handle most of the talking. If something works, don’t fix it. Statham’s Parker is smooth, but not Teflon. He takes a beating in “Parker” and doesn’t magically heal by the next reel.
Helping Statham with the story are Jennifer Lopez, who has reduced the size of her butt tremendously (thanks, J-Lo, not a fan of large butts); Nick Nolte, who has an extended cameo, and Michael Chiklis who gives Statham a run for his money as the antagonist.
KEY SCENES TO LOOK FOR:
- THE FIGHT WITH THE HITMAN
- THE ASSAULT ON THE THEIF SQUAD
Director Taylor Hackford moves “Parker” at a comfortable pace, though there is a middle section that bogs down. Still, it works for characterization, especially Leslie Rogers (Lopez). Cinematographer J. Michael Muro occasionally slips into the dreaded Gladiator action sequencing, but thankfully, allows Statham to do his thing and more often than not, presents a wider shot with clear action. Of course, the true stars in a movie like “Parker” are the stunt crew. Special kudos to Nick Benseman, Jeff Brockton and Ricou Browning who head the team; Tamiko Brownlee who doubles for J-Lo, Randy Hall who doubles for Chiklis and James Embree, who stunts for Statham.
For action fans, “Parker” is worth the price of admission. Use it as a prelude to stopping at your favorite watering hole, and it’s a great way to kick off the evening. For those who think there’s too much violence in movies, I hear Nicholas Sparks is coming out with a new one soon. Go see that and enjoy your latte.
THE GRADE FOR PARKER = B
Fiore Mastracci, a filmcritic and action film fan, is a martial arts practitioner and holds the rank of Black Belt in several different styles.