Stars: Jason Statham, Jennifer Lopez, Michael Chiklis, Nick Nolte, Wendell Pierce, Clifton Collins Jr. | Written by John J. McLaughlin | Directed by Taylor Hackford
Ah Statham. We’re on safe ground here folks. I’ve already fully elucidated The Stathe’s qualities in a previous outpouring of praise review so they hardly need reiterating here. But to be clear: Jason Statham is a brilliant human and his works make the world a better place. His latest exploration of the human experience (or ‘film’, if you must reduce his art so) is Parker, a cinematic adaptation of the Richard Stark novel, Flashfire. Statham plays the titular character, a thief who ‘only steals from those who can afford it and never hurts those who don’t deserve it’. He’s basically Robin Hood then, except he keeps the money.
Parker does a job with a bunch of his father-in-law’s less-than-salubrious friends, who betray and try to kill him almost as soon as they’ve made their getaway. It’s funny, because Nick Nolte, who plays the father-in-law is all like, ‘hey Parker, these guys are totally cool and so not involved with any other major criminal outfits that might not take kindly to your killing them if they betray you which is not going to happen anyway, ‘cause as I say, they’re totally cool!’ He’s totally wrong! When Parker calls him out on this, he’s all like, ‘gee, my bad.’ And that’s it! In addition, Nolte is almost entirely incomprehensible. He sounds like he’s trying to do the Batman voice with his last remaining vocal cord after smoking one hundred cigarettes a day for sixty years. He also disappears half way through the film, making his appearance one of the most quietly absurd in any film, ever.
So anyway, once Parker recovers from the attempt on his life, he immediately starts tracking down the folks who betrayed him. He does this by stealing lots of cars. I’m not sure where this fits in with his ‘only steal from those who can afford it’ philosophy, unless he performs a thorough off-screen credit check on all of his victims prior to stealing their wheels, making sure they’re all insured and can afford the higher rates they’ll be faced with after making such a heavy claim.
Using his powers of punching people really hard, Parker discovers the gang are hiding out and preparing for their next big job in Palm Beach, Florida – but where? In order to narrow down his search, Parker poses as an Ecuadorian-born Texan seeking property in the area. This is where Jennifer Lopez comes in. She’s a down-on-her luck estate agent whom Parker employs to drive him around Palm Beach looking at properties in the hope she’ll drive past a cheapish one that’s just been sold and happens to tell him so. Miraculously, this plan actually works. J-Lo somehow sees through Parker’s cunning Texan accent, performs a cursory credit history check and discovers he is not all he appears. After confronting him, Parker is forced to decide whether he can involve her in his revenge plan.
Needless to say, Parker is fairly bonkers and frankly all over the place but is also one of the most fun films I’ve seen in some time. J-Lo is a completely charming screen presence and makes a great double act with The Stathe. The film is as funny as it is horrendously violent (Parker’s fight with an assassin that looks like a young Nick Cave is a stand-out scene of stupidly violent and violently stupid genius). The tone of the film shifts from gritty action thriller to Location, Location, Location-inspired rom-com and back with reckless abandon. Characters behave in weird and inconsistent ways. You slowly begin to realise that Statham’s character is actually suffering from a severe case of OCD, who seeks violent retribution on those who do not allow him to have his own way all the time or follow his own set of very specific rules that he himself is happy to break on a whim. Parker also strikes a significant blow for gender equality by not only having gratuitous arse-shots of J-Lo but of Statham too.
I could go on, but I think you get the point. Parker is very, very silly, makes little sense and really shouldn’t work. It’s also a bit long. But through the combined power of Jason Statham, Jennifer Lopez and the spectacular non-direction of the curiously aptly named Taylor Hackford, Parker is somehow wicked cool and a very, very fun film.
Parker is released on DVD and Blu-ray on July 8th.