Parker Review

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Shot and left for dead after a daring heist, Parker (Statham) tracks his fellow thieves to Florida’s wealthy Palm Beach, where he assumes a disguise and plots to steal the haul from their latest robbery with the help of a local estate agent (Lopez).


Jason Statham is a reliably unreliable action star, shooting three misfires (Death Race, Killer Elite) for every bullseye (Snatch, Safe). Having succeeded Charles Bronson in a recent remake of The Mechanic, Statham now takes on the role of Richard Stark’s (aka blacklisted writer Donald E. Westlake) eponymous master thief, previously played by Lee Marvin (Point Blank), Robert Duvall (The Outfit) and, most recently, Mel Gibson (Payback). This 21st-century take on the character, overseen by journeyman director Taylor Hackford (aka Mr. Helen Mirren), fits Statham like a jewel thief’s glove; after seeing him in action, it’s almost impossible to read a Parker novel without hearing The Stath’s inimitable Cockney rasp. Characterised more by actions than words, Parker’s hardness is established by the fact that even his girlfriend calls him by his surname — and that, at one point, he pushes his hand onto a knife to stop it being stuck in his eye.

The film opens with a daring daylight robbery at the Ohio State Fair, followed by a cheeky reprise of the plot of The Hunter (the basis for Point Blank/Payback), with Parker double-crossed and left for dead (again). From here, the script largely follows the plotting of the source text (the 19th Parker novel, published in 2000), fleshing out the supporting characters, notably Jennifer Lopez’s loopy estate agent. With her arrival, 30 minutes in, Parker takes a surprise left turn into caper territory — although the film’s violent tendencies (it will go down a storm with the NRA) flare up periodically to remind us we’re not watching The Thomas Crown Affair. Lopez, who hasn’t made a good movie since Out Of Sight, is an inspired foil for Statham, her character’s klutzy nature nicely juxtaposed with Parker’s cool reticence, and it’s rare to find a fully fleshed-out female character in an action thriller. Hackford’s reach may exceed his grasp, but this is a skilful execution of a minor Parker novel.

Fifty years after he first appeared, Donald E. Westlake’s antihero may have found his perfect avatar. Like Parker’s robberies, it isn’t entirely successful, but Statham and Lopez make enticingly mismatched partners in crime.