By MARK TURNER
Donald Westlake was one of the greatest crime authors to ever put word to paper. His books have been turned into numerous films, but most have been based on the character he created under the pseudonym Richard Stark. That character's name is Parker and such films as PAYBACK and POINT BLANK have been about him but never used his name. That changes with the release of PARKER.
Jason Statham stars as Parker, the hard-edged professional thief and all-around tough guy who uses a few simple rules: Don't steal from people who can't afford it and don't hurt people who don't deserve it. Parker also makes a point of telling people on the wrong end of his gun that if they simply do as he says and are honest with him they have nothing to fear. Both of these rules are strictly followed by Parker but perhaps not always by the associates he chooses to work with.
The latest heist involves the box office receipts from the Ohio State Fair. Parker's best friend, Hurley (Nick Nolte), puts him in touch with a crew that needs his planning expertise. Headed by Melander (Michael Chiklis) they succeed in their heist, but down the road he tells Parker that he'd like him to put his share into another robbery they have planned that will result in a bigger payoff. Parker declines but Melander tells him he's taking his share anyway. Gunplay follows and Parker is left for dead at the side of the road. But if he were dead then this would be the shortest feature film ever made.
Parker is saved by a family in a truck and taken to a hospital. Before he can be questioned, he leaves and heads for home calling his girlfriend Claire (Emma Booth) Hurley's daughter on the way. He tells her to leave and then calls Hurley next. The warning doesn't quite come in time as Hurley lets him know that Melander was being backed by the Chicago mob and one of the team is tied to them. An assassin shows to kill Claire but she escapes.
Parker's code of ethics kicks in full blast. Though Hurley shows with his portion of the initial robbery sent from Chicago Parker's main goal now is to take revenge on those who betrayed him and get his share back from them. He finds out their plans for the next heist and while the Chicago mob tries to take him out, he follows the first crew down to Palm Beach. There he poses as a Texas millionaire and has local real estate agent Leslie Rodgers (Jennifer Lopez) help him find a home to purchase. In reality he's looking for a secluded unused house he can hide out in.
Leslie is down on her luck and living with her mother. A few things make her suspicious and she confronts Parker. After some discussions he decides he can trust her and use her to help him out as well. He then discovers more about this planned heist with information Leslie provides him and sets out to take the score once the robbery goes down. But, as they say, the best laid plans.
What makes the movie interesting, as well as the character of Parker, is this moral code that he has that he follows to the end. He often seems to care less about the money than the principal of the treatment he earned. In so doing the crew sets in motion a chain of events that will not end happily for them. And while when we step back we know that Parker is indeed a career criminal, we find ourselves rooting for him all the way.
Statham does a great job as Parker portraying the character as written; a man who uses few words when they are not called for and uses them sparingly when they are. Statham plays him as a man of action but not the same way he's done many of his characters in the past which was more action and less acting. He's better than that and proves it here. Lopez does a fine job as Leslie though her role feels minor for the star power she can draw to a film.
The movie looks great and uses various tones to differentiate between the settings it takes place in. This is a result of the keen eye of director Taylor Hackford, the director of such films as WHITE NIGHTS, AN OFFICER AND A GENTLEMAN and RAY. Hackford has always taken the films he's worked on and brought them to a level not expected for the stories chosen.
PARKER is filled with plenty of gory violence and flowing blood during fight sequences so be aware. This is also to say that there is plenty of violence in the film so go in knowing this. But if that's not a problem then expect a heist film filled with double crosses, gunplay, fight scenes and a character whose set of rules could cost him more than money.
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