"I don't steal from people who can't afford it, and I don't hurt people who don't deserve it."
This is the credo that Jason Statham's latest anti-hero lays out at the start of Parker. It's meant to reveal that while he is a criminal, he's an admirable one with a sort of Robin Hood code. That's an interesting premise, except this is all lip service. Parker delivers this speech in the midst of a hostage situation after having attacked a scrawny security guard who makes $7 an hour. In the string of crimes Parker commits throughout this so-called thriller, he robs and attacks people—from hunters to nurses, businessmen and bouncers—with a keen eye to his own needs and no moral code. But this is just the first of many, many problems with this poorly made production.
Based on the Donald E. Westlake novel Flashfire, Parker tells the story of the titular professional thief and his quest for revenge following an attempt on his life. The movie begins at the Ohio State Fair, where Parker and his crew execute a heist….of the State Fair. Though the plan is flawed, the five thieves make a narrow escape with plenty of cash. But when one called Melander (Michael Chiklis) demands Parker's cut and involvement on a bigger venture, things go sour. Parker refuses, so Melander's boys shoot Parker and leave him for dead on the side of the road. But of course this is just the beginning of Parker's story.
His body riddled with scars, Parker is a man who is clearly hard to kill. Soon he's back on his feet and headed to Palm Beach, Florida to reclaim his money and seek revenge on Melander and his crew. While casing their hideout he arises the suspicious of unscrupulous real estate agent Leslie Rodgers (Jennifer Lopez) and soon the two are in cahoots to snatch whatever Melander plans to steal and split the profits. Along the way there's lots of action and some awkward attempts at sex appeal, but none of it is worth the price of admission.
Well-established in this genre, Statham does admirably with what is a bad and senseless script. Characters are two-dimensional at best, but at least he pulls off some solid one-liners and even manages some swagger, an impressive task considering the horror show that is costuming in this movie. Unfortunately Lopez can't carry her weight. Parker and Leslie have a flirtation, but it lacks any oomph because Statham and Lopez share zero chemistry. The film itself lacks sex appeal as director Taylor Hackford fundamentally misunderstands the allure of his stars.
He forces Statham into one ridiculous look after another, from bad wigs to a big white cowboy hat and loose-fitting suits. This misstep is made all the more obvious when a shot meant to show off Statham's ass instead reveals a saggy drop of linen slacks. Even worse, Hackford forces him into a clunky Texan twang, robbing us of the full power of Statham's sexy growling British accent. For her part, Lopez is shoved into one dowdy outfit after another, and even a scene where she strips to her underwear lacks sensuality. Lopez does herself no favors, relying on acting that would work better in broad comedy than an action-thriller. When she abruptly delivers a long monologue about how miserable Leslie's life is—while downing a generous glass of white wine—she earned laughs instead of any kind of empathy from the audience.
But what about the action, you might wonder. It's awful. Hackford shows no skill in directing action, as sloppy cinematography is roughly slammed together to create one incoherent action sequence after another. Sure, the R-rating allows Parker some blood, incidental boobs (never Lopez's), and plenty of freedom to use four-letter words, but none of these are all that titillating or fresh. In fact, the movie feels so dated that I'd believe it had been shelved for more than a decade.
The music seems right out of the late 1980s/early '90s action movies. The characters are flat. The plot is meandering and nonsensical. And the shoddy production value makes it feel like Parker should have been playing on USA Network decades ago. Nearly every aspect of this production feels haphazard,from the fake scars to Statham's wig to the costumes.There were points where I spotted an actor's body mic and where the audio was clearly out of sync!
I didn't expect Parker to be great, but I was shocked at how bad it is. All you need for a Statham movie to work is good action, sex appeal, and a briskly paced plot. Yet Hackford fails on every count. Parker is so bad that it's laughable.