Parker, the ruthless career criminal from Donald E. Westlake's long-running series of novels, is more complex and a fair bit less approachable than his big-screen representation in Director Taylor Hackford's Parker, which pulls from Westlake's 19th novel "Flashfire." Shot without much humor but with plenty of excess blood, Parker feels incredibly generic despite the decent pairing of Statham and Jennifer Lopez as a frustrated Palm Beach realtor who agrees to help Parker take out the men who double-crossed and left him for dead. At least ho-hum Statham films are somewhat entertaining, and, while I never considered the main characters in any real danger, Parker is not a terrible way to spend two hours.
Parker only robs and abuses those who deserve it, at least according to his somewhat skewed moral compass. Parker's mentor and enabler Hurley (Nick Nolte) puts him in touch with Melander (Michael Chiklis), a thief with several loyal goons who is looking to rob the profits of a county fair. Parker erupts when his newly minted partners begin using weapons, and Melander attempts to strong-arm Parker into using his share of the take to stake a bigger robbery. Parker refuses and gets shot and dumped into a roadside ditch. A local family saves Parker, and he recovers quickly to seek his revenge on Melander and company, who are now living in Palm Beach.
The marketing for Parker seemed to promise a comedic crime thriller in which Statham kicked ass and cracked wise, but the film has little to laugh about. Westlake's novels might lack levity, but the superior Jack Reacher proves that adding a bit of humor into pulp fiction can yield surprisingly good results. Parker also flirts with the noir thrills of Elmore Leonard-created, Steven Soderbergh-directed Out of Sight, and Lopez's Leslie Rodgers in Parker recalls her Karen Sisco in Out of Sight. But, that film had more humor, sex and suave than Parker, which tows the line to the point of boring its audience.
Lopez turns out to be the best part of Parker. I've always considered her an underrated actress, and her forgettable romantic comedies are offset by the unpretentious thrills of Out of Sight, The Cell and Anaconda. Lopez's realtor Leslie lives with her mother, is about to have her Mazda repossessed, and has yet to make a sizeable commission from selling a property. Leslie calls Parker's bluff when he pretends to be a wealthy Texan looking for property to buy, and agrees to help him take down Melander for a cut of his earnings. Lopez is not a love interest for Parker - that would be Emma Booth, playing Parker's longtime girlfriend Claire - but her character emotionally grounds an otherwise aloof film.
Statham has the uncanny ability to hold your attention without speaking much, and even the "lesser Stathams" like Killer Elite and Transporter 3 have some entertainment value. Parker is no different, and Statham is mostly undercut by a script that can't decide what kind of man Parker wants to be. The film confuses the audience by showing nice-guy Parker during the opening heist, but later brings out a more ruthless Parker willing to shoot a guy to make his escape from the law. Hackford, best known for Oscar-winning Ray, directs without much flair here but earns Parker an R rating with lots of headshots and torture. The blood in Parker is at times distracting, reaching a level of parody, and, despite the filmmakers' intentions, does not make the film more realistic. Parker crosses the finish line a bit confused. Is it a bloody crime noir, a rowdy shoot-‘em-up, or a comedic thriller? I tricked you; it's none of the above.
Sony releases Parker for Film District, and, since this is a new release from the pioneers of Blu-ray, it looks fantastic. The 2.40:1/1080p/AVC-encoded transfer is beautifully detailed and sharp, and displays excellent texture in both close-ups and wide shots. Colors are bold and nicely saturated, and skin tones remain natural in the bright Florida sun. Black levels are good, and I noticed only a hint of softness. There are no problems with aliasing or digital tinkering.
The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack is engaging, with strong LFE support and good surround response for action and ambient effects. Dialogue is crisp and clean, and is balanced appropriately with the effects and score. The action may be generic, but it sure sounds great. Gunfire, screaming and the chaos of a robbery surround the viewer, and the sounds of a busy street immerse the audience. English, English SDH and Spanish subtitles are available.
PACKAGING AND EXTRAS:
This single-disc release comes in a standard Blu-ray case and includes a code to redeem an UltraViolet digital copy. Extras include a breezy Commentary by Director Taylor Hackford, in which he discusses the source novel, casting, production and effects. This track is quite informative and borders on being more entertaining than the main feature. Bringing the Hunter to Life: The Making of Parker (7:28/HD) is a short, cursory overview of the project, and The Origin of Parker (4:18/HD) discusses the character's development in "Flashfire." Broken Necks and Bloody Knuckles (3:37/HD) shows how the filmmakers accomplished the film's bloody fights, and Who Is Parker? (2:32/HD) plays like an extended trailer.
Jason Statham is always entertaining, even when the film he is carrying is flawed. Parker, directed by Taylor Hackford, is such a film, and is an oddly generic mix of crime thriller and humorless caper. Jennifer Lopez is a welcome addition as a frazzled realtor who agrees to help Statham track down the men who left him for dead. This is the definition of a rental. Rent It.