Cinema audiences have in recent months been introduced to literary franchises such as Lee Child's Jack Reacher series with Jack Reacher, and now Richard Stark's Parker novel series hits the screens with Taylor Hackford's Parker, with Jason Statham in the starring role of a professional thief who lives by his uncompromising moral code that he imposes on his partners, only to soon find himself being double-crossed, and through a stroke of luck in surviving what could have mortally finished him, returns to exact a cold and calculating revenge. And yes, it certainly did seem like any other Jason Statham action film out there.
But as a fan, I guess that's exactly what one would be asking for, since if it ain't broke, why fix it? Casting Jason Statham in an action role will only mean some elements of characterization staying consistent (and that's why he's casted, right), as someone who is as much of a lone wolf as he is a team player, talks less, delivers much, and doesn't waste time nor BS in dispatching opponents. Being a real tough guy, action sequences get crafted to his strengths, together with his reputation of doing his own stunts bringing some authenticity to the characters he plays. Some may find fault with his acting chops, but face it, you don't come to expect much of that in a Statham marquee action film.
The plot is kept fairly simple. We get treated to a major heist at a carnival with Parker and a new crew introduced by Parker's mentor Hurley (Nick Nolte), which came with a bad after-taste when Parker's rule gets a little bit compromised when one of the four members deviated from their established plan and put strangers in harm's way. But more deviation from the original intent came up, as Melander (Michael Chiklis) suggests they reinvest their earnings to prepare for a much larger job, and with Parker's refusal, he gets gunned down and left for dead. But you can't keep a good man down, and before you know it, he's back plotting off the heels of his ex-crew, to steal what they had stolen from him and more, but not before they send a hitman Parker's way.
Action sequences here are stylishly created, bloody and violently executed to perfection. Statham versus Kroll (Daniel Bernhardt) was a highlight, in their close quartered combat in an apartment, coupled with the finale which was what Statham normally does best when in character - quit the talking and get down with the executing. A few scenes allow Statham to show off his usual physical moves, which are usually impressive treats that Statham has to pull off to cement his action star status.
And lucky for Statham, he gets romanced by two ladies in the film. There's Emma Booth playing Claire, Parker's love and daughter of his mentor Hurley who naturally becomes a target when Parker's life is at stake, and Jennifer Lopez as a desperate real estate agent who gets unwittingly caught in Parker's revenge plans. Lopez doesn't act in too many movies these days, but she plays the perfect fodder opposite Statham, lending good comedic timing to an action film that's serious from the get go. The romance didn't really work too well since it's unrequited love that's adopted here, and somehow these scenes felt too laborious, necessary to set up how Parker is a loyal one woman man, but is largely unnecessary to the main plot on vengeance.
Director Taylor Hackford, who had done an action thriller with Proof of Life, could have improved the pace of what seemed like a fairly straightforward film instead of having its middle act sag on the weight of an inconsequential romantic focus and repertoire between the two leading characters - yes we get that engaging a star like J.Lo would be wasteful if scenes do not exploit her physical presence - and having more challenging villains would have helped Parker cement that his mission wasn't that easy a walk in the park. Still, for Statham fans, this is once again an automatic must watch, just to see how many iterations of the same film can he get to do, time and again. Let's hope he keeps it varied enough to avoid a career like Seagal's!