Even by star Jason Statham’s usual modest-risk, modest-reward standards, “Parker” is lazy, lousy stuff after a bracing first half-hour — the sort of tripe on which you would have found a Cannon logo circa 1986 and which would have starred Charles Bronson or Michael Dudikoff.
Based on a book by Richard Stark (Donald E. Westlake’s pen name), it’s the revenge tale of a double-crossed thief riddled with bullets and left to rot on the roadside. Sound like “Point Blank” (1967) or “Payback”? It’s more or less the same (only worse), as all three were adopted from Stark novels. Only this film, to which the rights were released after Westlake’s death, uses the character’s actual name. Too bad it lacks either their nasty streak or their creative misanthropy.
Based only on his silver-screen exploits, Parker is a piss-poor judge of character, especially given the honorable code of which he so proudly boasts to anyone who will listen. Here, he’s duped after a bravura million-dollar robbery of the Ohio State Fair — from which his nasty partner-in-crime Mellander (Michael Chiklis) intends to stake an eight-figure jewelry heist in Florida.
But you can’t solve a problem like Parker with one bullet, as Mellander’s crew learns when he turns up on their tails days later in Palm Beach. To arrive there, Parker gets a hand from his girlfriend’s dad, played by Nick Nolte, who, pro forma, stammers like a man talking to himself on the subway and looks like a walking slab of brisket.
“Parker” is only good when it moves fast enough so as not to let us muse on myriad, monumental plot inconsistencies. Chief among them: Mellander is pulling off the Florida robbery at the behest of a Chicago mob boss. Why didn’t he stake his minions the cash they needed for a healthy 4900% ROI? Unfortunately, the film takes a fatal, humorless interlude into insouciance once Parker arrives in the Sunshine State, with only one unexpectedly bloody fight to break up the monotony.
Posing as a Texas millionaire named Daniel Parmitt (for whom Statham tenders one of the decade’s most ludicrous accents), Parker finds where Mellander and Co. are holed up. Pulled into his plot unexpectedly is Leslie (Jennifer Lopez), a real estate agent floundering in the land of the filthy rich. In exchange for a cut of his final take, Leslie offers her “knowledge of the area,” but she may have romantic designs, too.
In her initial appearance, Lopez awakes dazed and confused, as if hoping she’s actually on the “Out of Sight” set, back before the “Wedding Planners,” “Back-Up Plans” and “Maid in Manhattans” led her to whatever remains of her film career. With a dead-eyed resignation, Lopez plays Leslie like one of her romcom characters in a film where people are filleted like Palm Beach’s catch of the day. And pairing her as a potential paramour for Statham is just one of “Parker’s” many perilous decisions, as it creates a non-starter love triangle with the smallest angle possible.
The only interesting moments between them involve butts, and not in the way you might think for a film featuring Lopez. Yes, Leslie strips down to her skivvies and Parker sneaks a peek. But he’s scanning for a wire she might have hidden in a panty-covered cleft — a man looking to sate his trust, not his lust. In fact, it’s Leslie that objectifies Parker, checking out his keister in rumpled suit pants.
To call “Parker” a run-of-the-mill thriller insults the pleasures, however predictable they might be, of the proficient process behind the potboilers it’s trying to emulate. “Parker” feels like the product of misfits who broke into a mill shuttered on the edge of town and fired up the machines without understanding at all how they work.
Although there’s not much worth watching or hearing, “Parker” at least looks and sounds great on Blu-ray. It’s got faithful, vivacious color reproduction, from the red and green balloons floating around the fair to the stucco castles of Palm Beach. And whether it’s a roaring shotgun or humming locusts, the sound is rich and involving.
Extras include a commentary with director Taylor Hackford (“Ray”), during which there’s presumably no apology, and a repetitive series of promotional featurettes.