Parker: Rated “R” (118 Minutes)
Starring: Jason Statham, Jennifer Lopez, Nick Nolte, Michael Chiklis, Clifton Collins Jr.
Directed by: Taylor Hackford
Adapted from the Donald E. Westlake novel Flashfire and staring the book’s central character (Parker appeared in 24 of the 28 Westlake wrote) Parker is a professional thief who has a very unique code of “professional” ethics. He is brought into a heist by his friend (and the father of his girlfriend) Hurley (Nolte) only to be double-crossed by Melander (Chiklis) — the leader of the crew that he has been tasked to lead — getting himself shot and left for dead on the side of the road. Only Parker doesn’t die (which would make for a really short unfulfilling film), but is rescued by a passing motorist, and brought to a nearby hospital. Assuming a new disguise and warning off his girlfriend, Claire (Emma Booth) and her dad, Parker makes plans to not only get his share of the take back but extract his vengeance on Melander and his crew.
To this end Parker goes about setting up his play for his eventual payback (unavoidable aside, Payback was the title of a 1999 film starring Mel Gibson who played “Porter” the same character with essentially the same plot). Needless to say, Parker assumes a disguise and winds up forming an unlikely alliance with Leslie Rodgers (Lopez), a very sexy local Palm Beach Realtor, whom he hires to show him around as he tracks down the gang. As it turns out Leslie is recently divorced, living with her overbearing mom and supporting her deadbeat ex-husband. When Leslie puzzles out what Parker is up to, she offers to help him figuring that perhaps they could help each outer out. Having formed such an unlikely alliance with her, he looks to hijack Melander’s crew’s latest score.
What follows is a series of events that bring Parker closer to evening up the score and getting back what was his. While we are fans of Statham and Lopez is not only always easy to look at but performs well in this action flick, we still can’t help but to prefer Gibson’s portrayal of Westlake’s character, as Gibson brought with him a very cold, dry, matter-of-factness to the role, where Statham plays his calm, “Transporter” self to the role. Not that there is anything wrong with that, but it is an entirely different feel. Plus, Payback was clearly a period piece (set in the ‘60s or ‘70s while this incarnation of Parker is firmly set in the present day.
Still, there is really nothing wrong with the film, and it is entertaining enough to watch.
Robert J. Sodaro has been reviewing films for some 30 years. During that time, his movie reviews and articles have appeared in numerous print publications, as well as on the web.