★ / ★★★★
A five-man heist at the Ohio State Fair is a success. While a million dollars sits in the back of the moving vehicle, Parker (Jason Statham) is given an offer he is told he cannot refuse: the next job involves a chance of pocketing at least a few million per person. Parker, a man of rules and principles, says he cannot accept. He signed on for one assignment and since it is finished, he insists that he walk away. The other four (Michael Chiklis, Clifton Collins Jr., Micah Hauptman, Wendell Pierce) do not like his answer so he is attacked in the back seat and left for dead on the side of the road.
If “Parker,” based on a novel by Donald E. Westlake and directed by Taylor Hackford, manages to accomplish one thing, it is casting Statham as a professional thief who believes that he is the “good” kind, determined to adhere to the idea that he will neither steal from people who cannot afford it nor hurt those who do not deserve it. But the picture is terribly long and confused. During its meanderings, I caught myself checking the clock and asking myself if it was going to be over any time soon. That is never a good sign.
Despite the main character visiting many places and seeing different people, they do not amount to much. It is mostly a passive experience: he visits an establishment, threatens a couple of guys, and onto the next hive. The characters we meet are not interesting; they say a few words, they get hurt, and we never hear of them again. The conversations have the usual tough-guy attitude commonly found within the genre, but the script is not written sharp enough so it is difficult to remember if they made any impact in the story. As a result, it feels like the film is simply buying time.
Clocking in at about a hundred and twenty minutes is inexcusable. The heart of the picture is Parker’s relationship with a real state agent named Leslie (Jennifer Lopez)—at least supposedly. Their paths do not converge until about halfway through. When it does, what they share is underwhelming. I liked the idea of Lopez and Statham emitting sexual chemistry without actually getting into it, but their relationship lacks fire and a sense of fun. Is Lopez throwing herself at a man supposed to be funny? In addition, Leslie is written so syrupy, she and her inability-to-pay-the-bills-on-time issues might as well be taken from a soap opera.
Parker’s quest for payback does not work. I wanted to see the four bad men get their comeuppance, but it is difficult to believe that the central character is in any real danger of getting caught or dying. He always seems to be a step ahead of everyone else. Since there is a lack of a defined villain—equally driven and just as smart as the protagonist—that can turn his world upside down, the work fails to become engaging.
Adapted to the screen by John J. McLaughlin, “Parker” is as inconsequential and unentertaining as it gets. For many people, it will likely work as a sleeping pill.