Sunday, January 27, 2013


Does one movie being released help get related ones on video any more? Because if so, maybe Parker can do the world a little good by getting Point Blank released on Blu-ray. And maybe the original theatrical cut of Payback as well (I like the "Straight Up" Director's Cut quite a bit, but wouldn't mind having both in HD). And the ones with Jim Brown and Robert Duvall as well. Similarly, I'd love it if The Last Stand convinced some enterprising distributor to finally put A Bittersweet Life out on region 1/A-friendly media, especially with Lee Byung-hyun showing up in a couple English-language movies this year as well (G.I. Joe: Retaliation and Red 2).

But, anyway, about Parker: There's a moment in this movie (mentioned in the review) which feels tremendously off to me to the point where I want to figure out who, exactly, is to blame, because it seems like it represents a fundamental bad decision being made, and I don't know whether it was casting Jennifer Lopez or what the writer and director wanted her to do. It's when she's figured out that Parker isn't who and what he says he is, confronts him, and she takes him up to the office to lay her situation in front of him. She gives a pretty great speech, about how her ex-husband and divorce put her in debt, she's pushing 40 and knows her opportunities aren't going to keep coming, and she's stuck with her mother who won't kick off, and it's during that last bit that the words, at least, suddenly resolve themselves as being noir as hell - it is a classic femme fatale "this is what turns a woman hard and now I'm just as dangerous as any man" monologue. I suspect it comes straight from the book, and the only problem is that Jennifer Lopez seems all wrong for it; too nervous and almost sobbing and vulnerable. Was she just the wrong choice here, or did Hackford and writer John J. McLaughlin have the wrong approach, trying to make too many of the characters in a hard-edged crime novel nice?

Admittedly, I haven't read any of the Parker novels recently; my exposure to the character mostly comes from Darwyn Cooke's great comic adaptations and the two filmed versions of The Hunter, but there's a reason Payback was tagged with "time to root for the bad guy": Parker's code is less moralistic and more stubbornly about seeing that accounts are square with him. The way he talks to hostages isn't necessarily a sign that he's a nice guy underneath, but a skill he's developed to keep the situation under control because cops spend a lot more time on crimes where civilians die than where they don't.

It does kind of strike me, though, that there aren't a whole lot of great choices for casting someone like Parker right now. The joking about Mel Gibson having a real cro-magnon look to him in Payback was funny but also sort of exposes that there aren't necessarily a whole lot of rugged-looking guys playing lead parts in the movies right now. Daniel Craig and Clive Owen could be Parker, I guess (as could Gibson if he wasn't utterly radioactive), but who from the US? We seem to be cranking out blandly handsome leading men these days without a whole lot of variety. My first thought when trying to figure out who'd be better than Statham was Matthias Schoenaerts, but if Statham's accent struck me wrong...

Oh, and speaking of casting: I like Jennifer Lopez, but the shots of her butt in this were kind of weird. I get that a big part of her appeal is that particular asset, but there was a shot or two that was just 'hey, Leslie's got J-Lo's ass!" that, aside from getting a few whoops from the audience kind of take the viewer out of the movie for a second, reminding them of the actress rather than the character. Seems like something you shouldn't be looking to do.


* * (out of four)
Seen 26 January 2013 in AMC Boston Common #19 (first-run, digital)

On its own, Parker isn't a particularly terrible movie. It's kind of filler on the calendar, and not close to the best work of stars Jason Statham and Jennifer Lopez, but also far from their worst. There's worse ways to spend two hours. But consider that this can be considered a sequel to Point Blank or Payback, and it's apparent just how far off the standard it is.

Parker (Statham) is a veteran thief who, working with a new crew, heists roughly a million dollars from an Ohio state fair as the movie begins, although it doesn't go as smoothly as he would like - and that's before Melander (Michael Chiklis), one of his fellow thieves, pulls a double-crosses, takes the money to invest in a new caper, and leaves Parker for dead. He should know better, as Parker survives and tracks Melander and company to their next job in Palm Beach, eventually falling in with struggling realtor Leslie Rodgers (Lopez) as he plans to hijack the new score.

The protagonist of a long-running series of novels by Donald E. Westlake writing as Richard Stark, Parker has come to film before in many forms and under a variety of names (the only time Westlake allowed the character to be called "Parker" in an adaptation is in Darwyn Cooke's graphic novel versions; this adaptation of Flashfire was produced after Westlake's death), and that puts Jason Statham in an tough spot - Lee Marvin especially casts a long shadow (not to mention Mel Gibson, Robert Duvall, and others) even though Statham is playing a very different conception of the character. Statham's Parker has not so much been softened as smoothed out compared to the blunt force of nature he is elsewhere, and even done well, that's going to seem less exciting.

Full review on eFilmCritic.

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