Jason Statham is one of those guys whose movies I want to like. Like Mark Wahlberg or The Rock, I find myself enjoying some of their movies and then recognizing that a few others aren’t nearly as good (past winner for this award: Adam Sandler). But Statham sort of maxed out with The Transporter series, and it’s been relatively downhill since. But then Parker arrived.
Parker is adaptation of the nineteenth novel by Donald Westlake as Richard Stark about a professional thief (he has also appeared with a different name, see Payback with Mel Gibson). Here, Parker is double-crossed by Melander (Michael Chiklis), who has him shot and left for dead. Rising up from his near death experience with vengeance on his mind, Parker makes moves to protect his girlfriend (Emma Booth) and track Melander’s gang to Palm Beach, Florida, where he intends to thwart their current robbery scheme, take back his own share of the previous job’s money, and end their careers. But they know he’s coming for them, and significant forces are put up in his way.
But Statham’s Parker has J-Lo’s Leslie Rodgers, small-time real estate agent, on his side. Wanting to break free of her own miserable life, she throws her lot in with him, providing him with a sidekick he doesn’t really want, and comic relief throughout the reasonably tense thriller. Don’t be fooled though: this is one of those rare Statham movies that stays locked in on where it’s going and what it’s doing so that nothing can dilute the intensity or cause us to stray from the Statham-as-skilled-fighter that we loved early on.
Parker is a skilled thief, fighter, and confidence man, but his life of crime hasn’t completely frozen over his soul (think thief with a heart of gold). He rescues a security guard from being gunned down by carefully calming the man down; he refuses to kill those he considers innocent. In fact, Parker sees himself as kind of a Robin Hood type, only stealing from those who have more than they need, and keeping a particular blend of morality that involves keeping his word and setting things straight when others act “dishonorably.”
It’s definitely one of my favorite Statham movies, but it’s high on bloodshed and low on depth. It’s entertaining in a vendetta sort of way, like Ronin, The Count of Monte Cristo, etc. but doesn’t really give us anything in a meaningful way, besides reminding us, “never mess with Parker.”