Jason Statham Steers Convoluted Tale as ‘Parker’

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HollywoodChicago.com Oscarman rating: 3.0/5.0
Rating: 3.0/5.0

CHICAGO – The Jason Statham “character” has served the actor well through a substantial action movie career. But as situations to fit his stoic British kick-ass persona start to drift away, Statham is left with messy narratives like in his new film “Parker,” co-starring Jennifer Lopez.

This scenario wants to be more clever than the usual Statham action movie – the title character is based on a series of best sellers by Donald Westlake – but the complexity of multiple characters and criminal enterprises dilutes itself by the end, and co-star J-Lo is reduced to a snooping neighbor-type to assure that she will be part of the action. Every circumstance in the film seems forced, but there are some moments, including the unintentional comedy of the British native Statham trying on a Texas accent. “Parker” is nothing more than an okay popcorn movie, and doesn’t even get much star power out of a cast that includes Michael Chiklis, Patti Lupone and Nick Nolte.

Parker (Statham) is part of a heist team that oddly hits the Ohio State Fair in Columbus. After that action goes down, the loot is commandeered by Melander (Michael Chiklis), who wants to use it in another, bigger Florida jewel robbery. That doesn’t fly with the honor-among-thieves code of Parker, who wants his fair cut, and after a vicious gun battle he is left for dead at the side of the road. After being cared for by some good samaritans, Parker escapes the hospital to exact his revenge, and calls for help from his lover Claire (Emma Booth) and her mob-connected father Hurley (Nick Nolte).

Jason Statham
Parker (Jason Statham) Tries Out His Texas Accent in ‘Parker’
Photo credit: FilmDistrict

The heist gang finds out that Parker has been resurrected, and calls for a Chicago hit man to kill him through the Windy City syndicate that will eventually fence their jewelry haul. As everyone heads to Florida, enter Leslie (Jennifer Lopez) a broke real estate agent in Palm Beach who suspects her new Texas client (Parker in disguise) isn’t what he seems. She calls him out, and wants a cut of anything he can get from the jewel thieves. The robbery is happening at an auction, and the characters are destined to collide there.

The heists are the best part of an overall story that had too much plotting. The thefts are clever in their execution, as it involves the art of disguise and out-of-the-box planning. Statham effectively masks as a priest during the Ohio job, and less effectively a Texas oil heir while in Florida – he can’t be bothered to even attempt an accent. The ultimate jewel robbery is also interestingly played out, so much so that it was tempting to root for the team who pulled it off.

What softened the film were the scenes and characters surrounding the larceny. There was much to keep track of, and the path through them were laced with references to “Chicago,” “Danzinger” and Florida real estate. J-Lo’s relationship with her mother (Patti Lupone) was thrown in, and Lupone’s interpretation and reactions to events seemed to shift radically as the film wore on. Whether it was an overstuffed script or edits to the film that cut out some explanation, “Parker” never emerges as an coherent story.

The film is directed by the Oscar nominated Taylor Hackford (“Ray,” “An Officer and a Gentleman”) and the old hand does a decent composition job, and makes Florida look pretty good, but isn’t up to organizing the narrative. The movie is also exceedingly violent, with random killing without regret. With the real life mass shootings dominating the headlines, will cold-blooded cinematic violence ever go out of style? Another sin is that the shootings and the beatings are a bit dull.

Jason Statham
Frisky Business: Leslie (Jennifer Lopez) and Jason Statham in ‘Parker’
Photo credit: FilmDistrict

The 68-year old Hackford also takes advantage of displaying the still comely Ms. Lopez, as she is frisked for a “wire.” He put the voyage in voyeur as the camera lingered on both “sides” of J-Lo, including her impressive back end. As the missing wire was the only indication of any law enforcement – besides wasting the fine Bobby Cannavale as a curious cop – the Lopez exposure qualifies Hackford as a dirty old director.

What could have been a more interesting heist film with a decent ensemble cast results in a muddle, with the Jason Statham stoic action machine becoming less relevant by yet another movie. It remains to be seen if he can still steal the attention of the action movie fan.

“Parker” opens everywhere on January 25th. Featuring Jason Statham, Jennifer Lopez, Michael Chiklis, Bobby Cannavale, Patti Lupone and Nick Nolte. Screenplay by John J. McLaughlin. Directed by Taylor Hackford. Rated “R”

HollywoodChicago.com senior staff writer Patrick McDonald

Senior Staff Writer

© 2013 Patrick McDonald, HollywoodChicago.com

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