Parker, the new Jason Statham action movie, runs 118 minutes. His co-star, Jennifer Lopez, doesn’t make her first appearance until the 40 minute mark. And that’s good news for J-Lo. While this seems a bit unusual, holding her out of the first third of the film, actually it makes us appreciate her more as well as leaving less of the film’s ordinariness on her.

The film is directed by Taylor Hackford (Ray, The Devil’s Advocate, Dolores Claiborne, & An Officer and a Gentleman) who is at the helm for the first time in three years. But the film’s main appeal is that it is actually another page in the Jason Statham book of action heroes. Never mind that these pages are all so similar. You know, everyone needs a thrill ride now and again. And Jason Statham, can always be counted on to help us along with that.

The indestructible Statham is the titular Parker in this January release. After a successful heist, he’s been left for dead by his co-conspirators. You know, there will be one more share for us; he won’t need his cut if he’s dead, so they attempt to make that happen. Only they bungle it. You see, Parker is like the old Timex watch commercials – he takes a licking and keeps on ticking.

Parker, once back on his feet, will need to even the score. And then some. If you think that sounds like a bit of the standard ‘crook gets his revenge‘ kind of story, you’d be right. And then some. This film is so by-the-numbers that even before you go to the cinema to see it – you know how it will play out.

But that doesn’t mean it hasn’t got a few things going for it. Statham is always fun. He trots out his standard one note performance. And for sure he does it well. J-Lo is always appealing. This time she plays a down-on-her-luck, divorced, and ditzy real estate agent in Palm Beach, Florida. She’s going to hook up with Statham, now posing as a Texas oilman, complete with an outrageous 20 gallon cowboy hat, and an even more outrageous faux Texas twang.

What’s the plan? Let the bad guys headed up by the scary Michael Chiklis, run their heist – then steal the swag from them. Seems do-able, on paper. Of course it is doable. You don’t think they’ve hired Statham and Lopez to fail do you?

But there’s got to be some complications. Obviously the bad guys are not going to allow Parker to waltz in and walk off with the take. We won’t be seeing anything like ‘Sorry mate. It’s all water under the bridge. Take the money. Please. Cheerio.‘ That’s not the way these things go.

We will need lots of bullets, blood, and an ever-increasing body count to get us to the finish line. Parker has his ethics and his credo. From Column A he says that he never robs from those that can’t afford it, and he never hurts anyone who doesn’t deserve it. From Column B he says, I always do what I say I will do, I follow through. Always. And if you don’t do what you say you will do – then there will be problems – I’ll make sure you regret it. Which means big problems. Nice. A crook with principles. But haven’t we heard these kind of things many times before starting back in the days of Robin Hood?

The screenplay is by John McLaughlin who has writing credits on 14 films with the best known being Black Swan (2010). The source material is a Donald Westlake novel called Flashfire. Westlake died in 2008 at the age of 75. He lived in New Mexico and certainly we could call him prolific as 40 of his works have made it to either the big screen or the small screen. He’s funny, he’s reliable, and he knows his way around the business of heists, revenge or payback, and mayhem.

So the film, on paper, has good bones.

Despite the bad guys suddenly appearing with nothing on their mind except mayhem for the requisite momentary shock value , the film is strangely not so involving. It’s hard to root for a guy who seemingly is indestructible. It’s hard to care for a guy who steals cars and vehicles as easily as you and I buying a cup of coffee at Dunkin’ Donuts. And finally, the elements of suspense aren’t really present. We watch two magnificent heists go down, but unlike Heat with DeNiro, Pacino, and Val Kilmer, where we were involved in the prep and the planning – here the only planning we see is that of Statham’s character and that happens just the one time.

Nick Nolte, Bobby Cannavale, and Patti LuPone have supporting roles, and they bring a certain something to the film in their small scenes> Let’s see – we have the Nolte growl, Lupone in a bathrobe and hair curlers, and Cannavale – how about befuddlement. I can’t quite say that Parker’s girl friend in the film Claire, played by Emma Booth,  as she only brings forth the proof that Parker is indeed true blue.

The film is far from terrible but equally far from being truly memorable and exciting. There’s violence a-plenty, and mucho spilling of blood. J-Lo and Statham don’t have a lot of sexual chemistry in the film – but then again, they’re not supposed to. Also while Ms Lopez is fine in her role, they set her up at the beginning to look as if she hasn’t much going for. But that changes real fast. She may be a real estate saleswoman but she’s got a touch of the thief in her as well. Then there’s the problem of her Mazda SUV. Despite the script calling for one phone call from the finance company about late payments, and one notice in the mail that her car  will soon be in the hand of the repo men, it never happens. I suppose they thought we might not notice, but we do notice. Yet, I can see another Parker film coming with Statham down the road, as this one should have a decent box office. Assuming a proper source novel can be found. But I don’t see J-Lo in it.

I’ll rate this by the numbers heist and retribution film at three-point zero. By the way, the bulk of the film was shot in Palm Beach, Florida – but the big jewel heist had some scenes shot in and around The Ringling Museum and environs near 5401 Bayshore Road right here in Sarasota.

PS: I missed the Southwest Florida premier VIP Cocktail Party for Parker which was held yesterday, January 24th, just up the road at the Lakewood Ranch Cinema.

PPS: Though many of the extras in the film were local Sarasota folks, I heard that 300 were chosen, I was not one of them.


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