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“Parker”: Jason Statham Hits a New J. Lo

January 25, 2013

I want to like Jason Statham. I really do. I thought the British ex-world class diver was effectively low-key in The Bank Job and Safe, underrated thrillers made by legit directors (Roger Donaldson and Boaz Yakin, respectively). I even got a kick out of him in the first Expendables flick. So I had high hopes for Parker—to the extent that I even put it on my list of 2012’s most exciting-sounding movies. The fact that it got bumped to 2013 should’ve been my first clue that, despite a decent director (Ray/An Officer and a Gentleman vet Taylor Hackford), a deep bench of supporting actors (Nick Nolte, Michael Chiklis, Wendell Pierce, Bobby Cannavale, et. al.) and quality source material (Donald E. Westlake’s acclaimed crime novels), the movie would blow. And for that, I blame J. Lo.

It’s not entirely her fault, but the American Idol refugee attempts to play a “real” woman—a Jenny from the block, if you will—a struggling real-estate agent living with her hot-tempered mother (a wildly miscast Patti LuPone) in Palm Beach—and fails miserably. Maybe it’s just too many years of diva living, but she seems less like a salt-of-the-earth working woman than a Real Housewife of Palm Beach. (Does such a show exist? If not, let’s not encourage it.) She sucks the air out of every scene she’s in—and drags the movie down with her.

Not that there’s much to drag. The screenplay, by John J. McLaughlin (Black Swan), commits a cardinal sin of writing: It tells instead of shows. Like when Parker holds up a state-fair back office with his crew and reassures the frightened employees that it’s okay because he only takes money from people who can afford it and hurts people who deserve it. Couldn’t McLaughlin and Hackford have dramatized that code of conduct, rather than having Statham awkwardly recite it?

Of course, not every thief lives by Parker’s ethics, so his cohorts double-cross him and leave him for dead, setting in motion the painfully slow-cranking gears of the movie’s revenge plot. The tone is all over the map: Sometimes it seems light and comic, like when Parker dresses up as a priest, and at others the bone-crunching violence is shocking even by Stathamian standards. And the ensemble is utterly wasted: Chiklis and Pierce (as Parker’s cronies), Nolte (as his mentor) and Cannavale (as a cop with a crush on J. Lo.) don’t have a single good scene between them.

Statham walks through the whole thing, exerting minimal effort. Maybe he knew what a turkey he was stuck in. Let’s hope he tries harder next time, in Homefront, which casts him as an ex-DEA agent who butts head with a meth lord named Gator, played by James Franco. Say what you will about Franco, but at least he’s got a strong work ethic; he puts his all into his roles, as misguided as they may often be. Except when he’s hosting the Oscars, that is. But at this rate, Statham doesn’t have to worry about his name being in the same sentence as Oscar, unless that sentence is: Jason Statham will never win an Oscar.

Ever enjoyed a Jason Statham flick? Any Mechanic or Crank fans out there?

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