Entertaining — but not necessarily in the way it’s meant to be.
Jason Statham doesn’t seem like the type of actor to really go for broke. Instead he’s found a niche and stuck with it. And that’s fine. He’s here to entertain and Parker certainly does that, to a certain degree. Director Taylor Hackford (Ray, Dolores Claiborne) puts him in the titular role as Parker, a con-man with a conscience, aiming to right a wrong from the real bad guys. An action-thriller, leaning more towards the thriller side, it also blends in noir and some humor, although how many laughs it wants to get versus what it does get can be debated. It’s the type of film that seemed to reign supreme in the ’90’s, before audiences met the slick Jason Bourne, before CGI upped the explosion factor, when the lines blurred between the film’s objectives and the audiences reaction.
What that all means, however, is that although it may be entertaining, it’s not adding anything to the genre or film in general. If the film has anything going for it, and there’s not a whole lot, it’s the character of Parker. He’s an anti-hero which, especially in the days of stories like Breaking Bad, isn’t something unusual but Statham portrays him as an action star and not a guy who’s at odds with his criminal tendencies. He’s the bad guy with a code which ultimately makes him, well, less bad. After he leads a job set up by his mentor, and his girlfriend’s father, Hurley (Nick Nolte), the rest of his crew including Melander (Michael Chicklis), Carlson (Wendell Pierce), Ross (Clifton Collins, Jr.) and August Hardwicke (Micah A. Hauptman), the latter of whom has familial ties to the strong, and crazy, Chicago mob, they turn on Parker. Melander has his hands in a new job that far surpasses what they just took. The catch is that they need to use what they just stole as an investment. Parker wants none of it. So, what do crooks do in that situation? They try to take him out and leave him for dead on the side of the road.
So what it really becomes is a revenge film, with Parker making his way to Tampa Bay to find the group and take back what’s his. Scoping out the town, he meets real estate agent Leslie Rogers (Jennifer Lopez) who gets herself involved, of course, but to the film’s credit only walks the line between cohort and love interest. Lopez is the obvious comic relief of the film, entering a world she doesn’t know, unlike Parker’s actual girlfriend Claire (Emma Booth), and acting as the damsel-in-distress when appropriate. What makes the revenge aspect so interesting and perhaps a bit ironic, an irony not lost on Rogers, is that Parker is looking to steal what is already stolen. But because Parker lives by a code of conduct, he’s the better of the bunch. Hackford is able to take that aspect and play with it a bit but, like Statham, he never really stretches the material. It’s a straightforward film complete with corny dialogue from the bad guys — the kind that’s so bad it has to be done on purpose — that has it’s entertainment value but not because of its merits as a film. That’s not to say it’s awful because it really isn’t terrible, it’s not not terribly good.
In the end it’s the type of film many expect, and perhaps want, from Statham. It’s not going to change the world but it will provide two hours of distraction. And, as surprising as it may be, Lopez proves that she even has some acting chops left. She seems to have more humility than she’s had in a long time — think Out of Sight — and that’s worth something. It may even be her best role since that film. That doesn’t mean it’s a great film but it is what it is and it doesn’t attempt to be anything else.
Rating: 2.5 out of 5