There’s not a great deal we ever get to know about Jason Statham’s character, Parker. He has no first name and he doesn’t appear to have much backstory, but we do know he steals cars, robs State Fairs and kills anyone who gets in his way; he’s a bad guy, but he’s a nice bad guy. We know he’s nice because he’s concerned that an innocent bystander was killed during a robbery, and when he shoots someone in the leg he tells them he’ll call an ambulance in five minutes. And he’s played by Jason Statham. If you’re going to be robbed, beaten up or maimed by anyone, hopefully it’ll be by someone called Parker who acts like Jason Statham.
Based on a huge series of books by writer Donald E. Westlake, who wrote all 24 of them under the name of Richard Stark, Parker is a ruthless criminal, and by all accounts he’s very good at his chosen profession. After being double-crossed by a small band of equally ruthless criminals, Parker is left for dead at the side of the road, but later rescued by a family who happen to be passing by at the right moment. The family members, by the way, are later rewarded for their efforts. As I mentioned, he’s a nice bad guy.
“You be careful,” warns a grizzled Nick Nolte in his now customary growl. “These are bad guys.” But Parker is taking no notice. He wants revenge on those who left him for dead and you’re either with him or against him, it’s that simple. And so is the film.
Jason Statham must be the luckiest man in the film industry. Let’s be honest, he’s not a great actor, but he has presence. He can’t even deliver a line with any real conviction, but so what? There’s no depth to anything he does, but who cares? He’s good at being bad, and his fans unquestioningly love him for it, and with a character like Parker, a man we never really get to know – and let’s face it, we wouldn’t want to know – he’s allowed to do some brutally terrible things and we actually cheer him on and hope he gets away with it. How’s that for getting away with cinematic murder?
“How do you sleep at night?” asks Jennifer Lopez after she witnesses first-hand some of Parker’s terrible deeds. “I don’t drink coffee after seven,” he replies.
Lopez plays Leslie, a real estate agent who can’t seem to get a break. At forty, she still lives with her mother, her car is about to be repossessed, and by all accounts, she’s really not that bright. The problem with Leslie is that she’s a very annoying character. I have to assume she’s meant to be funny – she’s a character that gets in the way at every step and needs to be rescued at moments when she shouldn’t even be there – but there is at least one thing in our favor; we have almost forty minutes of screen time before she turns up.
Her first meeting with Parker is when the criminal arrives in Florida pretending to be a Texan looking for a house to buy. We know he’s supposed to be a Texan because he’s wearing a huge ten-gallon hat and speaks in something akin to a southern drawl. It takes awhile, but Leslie starts to be suspicious that the man in the huge white hat is not all that he says he is. You have to wonder why it took her so long to be suspicious; the giveaway for everyone else would have been the moment he opened his mouth and said, “Howdy.”
I guess for fans of the genre, the bottom line for a film like Parker is this: It delivers the violence and the gun play, it indulges in the fantasy that revenge is sweet and will always pay off, plus its plot is simple to follow; no challenging thought required. And it stars Jason Statham who attempts a southern accent. What more can be said? You’re on your own.
MPAA Rating: R Length: 118 minutes Overall Rating: 5 (out of 10)