Richard Stark’s anti-hero Parker was made for Jason Statham, who has spent the last decade establishing himself as the heir apparent to Charles Bronson. In many ways, Parker should be a slam dunk for him, positing a lean revenge thriller that gives him countless opportunities to drop the pain hammer on deserving miscreants of all stripes. So why, then, does it feel like half measures? Hit the jump for my full review.
Certainly, Statham himself isn’t the problem. Once again, he throws every ounce of his cockney charm into the part, delivering a criminal with an unwavering code of ethics that sets him apart from his fellow scumbags. If you owe him $20,000, that’s all he’ll take; if the job says no one gets hurt, he’ll leave them without a scratch. It echoes Statham’s earlier roles like The Transporter, but with Stark’s hard-boiled prose behind him, he moves with considerable assurance. The plot gives him a cheerful knife in the back thanks to some former colleagues who don’t cotton to his straight-arrow policies. He embarks upon a slow, steady plan for revenge, following them to Miami and intending to take back his rightful share of their stolen money.
As long as the film sticks with that, it does fine. Parker’s associates are all thuggish assholes, and watching him work his way up to them holds its share of earthy charms. The film thinks it’s smarter than it is, of course, but it’s hard to care when Statham starts chucking guys off balconies. The problems come with the film’s women, who play a huge role in the proceedings, but who director Taylor Hackford doesn’t have the first idea what to do with. Parker’s gal (Emme Booth) performs dutiful support, binding his wounds and assuring him that she’ll wait even though neither of them knows if he’ll come back alive. Far more problematic is Jennifer Lopez’s down-on-her-luck realtor, roped into Parker’s revenge for reasons that make no sense beyond giving the star a meatier role. Parker skids to a halt whenever she appears… less from the actress herself than for the story’s unconvincing attempts to make her matter. We tend to expect that from movies like this, made primarily for guys and which regard women as curious appendages at best. But if Parker is going to take that approach, it needs to stick by it, instead of thrusting its female lead into the spotlight without the slightest bit of support.
The rest of the film goes about its duties with glum competence, neither offending us with its presence nor giving us any compelling reason to keep watching. Statham alone holds the line, his star qualities undeniable in material he knows like the back of his hand. With him in the lead, Parker more or less shrugs off its considerable shortcomings to become… well, hardly a must-see, but at least something that won’t bore you to tears if you stumble across it on Spike some Saturday afternoon. Basic cable feels likes its ideal medium: an agreeable bit of silliness to have on in the background while you mow the lawn or clean out the linen closet. The filmmakers clearly aspire to more, and their respect for the source material grants them some legitimacy. But we’ve seen too many movies like this before, and it never quite shakes its problems often enough to deliver on its premise. A little of this star goes a long way; in the case of Parker, it would have been nice to put a little more in his corner.
The Blu-ray is a standard package, features a smattering of interesting behind-the-scenes featurettes and a solid piece of audio commentary form Hackford that illuminates the source material as much as the film itself. Video and audio quality are both quite high… perhaps more than the film deserves, but certainly giving any fans out there a fair amount of bang for their buck.