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Reviews by Dr. Frank Swietek   

PARKER 
C 
Producer  Matthew Rowland, Sidney Kimmel, Taylor Hackford, Steve Chasman, Les Alexander and Jonathan Mitchell 
Director  Taylor Hackford 
Writer  John J. McLaughlin 
Starring Jason Statham  Jennifer Lopez  Michael Chiklis  Wendell Pierce  Clifton Collins Jr. 
Bobby Cannavale  Patti LuPone  Micah Hauptmn  Nick Nolte 
Studio  FilmDistrict 
Review  The hero of Donald E. Westlake’s series of books, written under the pseudonym of Richard Stark, has appeared on screen before in the person of such very different—if equally volatile—stars as Lee Marvin (“Point Blank”) and Mel Gibson {“Payback”). Now Parker shows up again, but with a British accent, played by stoic, stone-faced Jason Statham, in Taylor Hackford’s take on the character, which boasts a simple, eponymous title. The result is a middling action movie, neither great nor terrible.

“Parker” is a simple revenge tale tricked out with some embellishments to give it a false sense of complexity. The protagonist is a super-competent crook with a personal code of honor that especially requires redressing the balance in the event of a double-cross. He’s convinced by his old partner Hurley (Nick Nolte), who also happens to be the father of his girlfriend Claire (Emma Booth), to join a quartet of hoods—Melander (Michael Chiklis), Carlson (Wendell Pierce), Ross (Clifton Collins, Jr.) and Hardwicke (Micah Hauptman)—in a caper at the Ohio State Fair. After pulling off the heist—though not without a hitch that leaves one fairgoer dead—the others turn on Parker, who doesn’t want to invest his share in another job, and leave him for dead.

If he were, of course, there would be no movie. Parker survives, determined to deal with the men who’d betrayed him. There’s a complication in that Hardwicke’s uncle is a major Chicago crime boss who sends a hit-man after Parker, Hurley and Claire; but our antihero gets the other two to safety and then tracks his quarries to Palm Beach, where he enlists beautiful real estate agent Leslie (Jennifer Lopez), a money-strapped divorcee, to locate them. But when she suspects that he’s really not the Texas millionaire he’s pretending to be, she figures that becoming part of his plan might solve her financial problems. The whole business gets messy, of course, but in the end Parker and Leslie must face off against the dastardly villains after they’ve made their big score.

Westlake/Stark and scripter John J. McLaughlin provide the movie with a succession of action sequences—the fair robbery, the attempted disposal of Parker in a speeding car, a bloody altercation between Parker and the Chicago hit-man in a high-rise hotel suite, a complicated theft at a celebrity auction, and the protracted final showdown in a Florida ranch house—and they’re all staged and choreographed by Hackford adequately, though without any special flair or style that might make them truly memorable. And while the taciturn Statham’s take on the character of Parker isn’t much different from what he’s done on previous occasions, it’s certainly acceptable enough. Altogether, though, that leaves the picture mediocre at the core.

There’s some compensation in Lopez’s sultry saleswoman (at one point she does what amounts to an entirely gratuitous strip-tease) and Nolte’s gruff mentor. But otherwise the pickings are pretty slim. The bad guys are a pretty pallid bunch, with Chiklis doing a standard-issue smoldering turn, and Bobby Cannivale is wasted as a beat cop infatuated with Leslie. By contrast Patti LuPone is shamelessly over-the-top as Leslie’s mother.
Lesser roles tend to be played in similarly broad strokes.

Technically proficient without being at all remarkable visually, “Parker” is what used to be thought of as a standard-issue programmer, efficient but completely unexceptional. The character of Parker might seem ageless, but this take on him won’t last long. 

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