I’ve written before about the “Jason Statham Cycle of Shame” (formerly known as “The Statham Cycle”). It’s a psychosomatic condition wherein the afflicted (namely, me) recognizes that Jason Statham’s movies are mostly awful and goes out of his/her way to avoid them until finally succumbing to the need to see Statham rock one liners and kicks to the head and justifies the viewing by saying something like, “I know it isn’t good but it’s kind of fun, right?” The viewer then feels bad about his/her choices and vows never to give in to the power of Statham again…until the next Statham movie comes around the cycle starts all over again. I’ve gone through the Jason Statham Cycle of Shame so many times that for once I decided to get a jump on the illness and headed straight to the theater to see Parker on opening weekend. I regret my choices in life. Parker (Statham) is a career thief with a simple motto: he does what he says he’ll do and he expects those around him to do the same. Parker’s partner Hurley (Nick Nolte) sets him up with a big time gig and a new crew, led by Melander (Michael Chiklis), an old friend with a secret connection. After completing the job, Melander double crosses Parker and leaves him for dead in a ditch. Miraculously, Parker survives and tracks Melander’s crew to Palm Beach where they eyeing the score of a lifetime. In order to figure out the scheme and provide cover for himself, Parker begrudgingly brings down-on-her-luck real estate agent Leslie (Jennifer Lopez) into the fold and begins the task of seeking his vengeance.
Based on a book in an apparently popular series of novels by Donald Westlake, Parker is riddled with potholes that hinder what should have been an enjoyable, if insignificant, movie. The biggest issue for me was the seemingly all-encompassing struggle between allowing the film to become a no nonsense, hardcore action film in the vein of Safe (maybe Statham’s best movie) and shoehorning in a comedic, lightweight mentality to play on Statham’s inherent charisma. Parker tries to hit all points of the action spectrum and the result is a mishmash of clichés and a watered down narrative that doesn’t make just a whole lot of sense. Moreover, this is one of the few movies in which Statham doesn’t come across as charming. Director Taylor Hackford may have some worthwhile titles to hang his hat on (namely, 2005’s Ray) but he demonstrates no understanding of how to use Statham’s abilities to the film’s benefit. Statham seems to struggle with the film’s lack of flow and his attempt at a Texas accent is truly abysmal. The character itself is somewhat lackluster as well. At times it appears Hackford and company are striving to make him a more human action star who may or may not make it through this fight and then suddenly he becomes super human and goes full Chuck Norris. Parker is difficult to connect with, difficult to understand, and difficult to care about. And that’s not typically what you get with a Statham character.
There are other flaws with Parker but the cast deserves special mention. Nolte looks and sounds like some sort of creature brought back from the grave by the Resurrection Stone. I’ve long been a fan of Chiklis but his performance is reminiscent of a Vic Mackey knockoff and he comes across as someone who is just cashing a check. And then there’s Lopez who, while not horrible, does not fit at all and displays no chemistry with Statham (or anyone else for that matter). That’s somewhat fitting, though, seeing as how her character has almost no importance to the story and does next to nothing throughout until the very end when she almost ruins everything for Parker. Combine these missteps with some of the worst special effects you’re likely to see in a major motion picture this year and the script’s insistence on making ill-fitting jokes at random intervals and the result is one giant and uninspiring misfire.
Parker Director: Taylor Hackford Cast: Jason Statham, Jennifer Lopez, Michael Chiklis Rated: R (language, bloody violence, random nudity) Recommended For: Statham purists