If you told me Parker was directed by someone who has directed more than one movie, I’d be fairly skeptical. If you told me that Parker was directed by an Oscar winner, I would seriously question the accuracy behind that statement about a film that plays its cards as vapidly as possible.
But, regrettably, it’s a fact. The latest action caper featuring Jason Statham is not only directed by someone who has experience directing major motion pictures, but it’s helmed by Taylor Hackford – the filmmaking mind behind the biopic Ray and the one who received a prestigious Oscar for his short film, Teenage Farmer.
Some would expect this sort of quality from Hackford nowadays. Those people more than likely disapproved of Love Ranch, a film starring Joe Pesci’s return to the silver screen as well as a lead performance by Hackford’s wife, Helen Mirren.
I, on the other hand, rather enjoyed Love Ranch. And, no, my drink wasn’t spiked – and, yes, I had a suitable flow of air supply. I thought it consistently showed admirable ambition in an off-kilter romance that was more than interesting.
That aptitude flies in the other direction with Parker. Hackford’s direction and John J. McLaughlin’s screenplay is by-the-numbers – straight down the middle – with zero surprises. Sometimes predictability isn’t a problem if the minds behind it figure out an inventive way to present it, but there’s none of that outside-the-box- thinking displayed here.
Besides these disappointing observations is Parker’s baffling presentation, which mirrors an hour long thriller you would find playing on television at one-in-the-afternoon on a weekday. The action and the stakes are never heightened in a way that convinces us that this adaptation of Donald Westlake’s novel Flashfire needed a multi-million dollar production. Especially with its awkward placements of milky flashbacks, tacky cross dissolves and its stereotypical score.
Every male actor on screen sounds as if they’re drowning in alphabet soup. There’s a lot of grumbling and barking by Parker’s crooked crime mates (Michael Chiklis, Wendell Pierce, and Clifton Collins Jr.) and his mentor Hurley (played by a curmudgeon Nick Nolte). Nolte’s speech is so overbearingly coarse and incoherent, that movie goers will start ignoring his dialogue and begin worrying that Nolte may pass out mid-take.
I want to feel sympathy for Jason Statham, but I have difficulty feeling for an actor who constantly finds himself in movies like these. Lately, I see the action star attempting to make a violent role different, but the filmmaker wants Statham to “do his thing”. The problem is his “thing” has grown tiresome under the direction of filmmakers who have no idea how to stage and shoot hand-to-hand fights utilizing this talented actor. Hackford, sadly, is no different.
Parker also makes Statham a master of disguise – often having our rugged hero take on different accents and attires. The costuming usually looks uncomfortable on Statham and movie goers can clearly see he’s having struggles impersonating different audible mannerisms.
Maybe I do feel for Statham though. Parker pairs him up with Jennifer Lopez, the film’s “sexy comic relief”. If Statham is having a difficult time branching out in a film such as Parker, you can bet Lopez is having even more troubles.
Her shrill lines and screen presence forcibly reminds audiences she’s there to look pretty and say nimble things – which is too bad. With a little more direction and more dedication on Lopez’s end to pull off a fleshed-out performance, this could’ve been Lopez’s moment to show movie goers that she has what it takes to fill out this role as quick-witted eye candy.
But, Parker contains no stand out moments from anyone involved. Towards the final climax, we see Hackford and company come close to what Parker could’ve been. It pitches a “killer in the house” scenario shown from a different perspective, which is slightly enticing. But, its fumbled bloody encounters often have us reminded of Walker, Texas Ranger – as we wonder why the computer generated blood has been over-saturated in post.
Parker’s a film that has a hard time getting the colour of blood right. I think that says it all.