Parker’s Jason Statham has come a long way from Guy Ritchie’s cockney for hire to Hollywood’s hard man of choice. The Transporter, Crank and Expendables films have all seen Statham launch and establish successful franchises. That Parker is based on the nineteenth, titled Flashfire, of twenty-four novels by crime writer Donald E. Westlake, should, in theory, see him cement another character with which to have a long standing film franchise. Providing Parker is any good.
Parker (Jason Statham) is a no nonsense thief. He sticks to the plan, avoids hurting any innocents and is happy to take the money and walk rather than gamble on a bigger score. When he’s betrayed and left for dead by the crew he’s working with, led by the ruthless Melander (Michael Chiklis), Parker sets out on a course of revenge. While he doesn’t know what their next score will be, he knows it’s in Florida. Once there, Parker enlists the help of realtor Leslie (Jennifer Lopez), who has a few financial problems of her own, to help him figure out where the crew are holing up and what their next job could potentially be.
Gritty and often drenched in violence, Parker starts out as you would expect of a Jason Statham vehicle. Director Taylor Hackford, aka Mr. Helen Mirren, takes relish in blooding-up Statham more than we’re used to seeing. And considering his role in the Crank films, that is saying something. The opening heist is slick followed by a claustrophobic smack down in a moving car. But by the time the plot reaches Florida, it wilts under the tropical heat. Lopez’s character feels like she should be a romantic interest for Parker but he’s got a girlfriend so despite a bit of flirting it always feels like a non-starter.
By the time the big final heist comes round, despite numerous assassination attempts on Parker to delay proceedings, there’s not a lot to get excited about. That we’ve already witnessed how Parker plans on stopping his adversaries takes away any suspense and leaves you feeling you’ve been robbed of an otherwise interesting little revenge thriller.
Chiklis, having been one of TV’s best actors for years in The Shield, is asked to do little more than play a stereotypical bad guy. That he’s dressed as a clown in his opening scene is about as far as the film ever feels the need to stretch the character. Lopez is, on the one hand, a tough little cookie of a woman, figuring out Parker is not who he says he is before taking her opportunity to make a bit of extra cash, before descending into nothing more than an irritating damsel in distress. Only Statham is able to offer the film any kind of solace. He’s never asked to do anything we haven’t seen him do countless times before, in fact so unidentifiable is Parker this could easily be another Transporter film, but when Statham is cracking skulls and impaling his own hand on knives it’s hard not to enjoy the action.
While Parker might, at first, appear to be a gritty little thriller in the vein of Point Blank (now there’s a film that Statham could get involved in) it rapidly runs out of steam. Based on this evidence we shouldn’t expect to see another Parker film anytime soon, unless it sees Statham reinvented as Lady Penelope’s chauffer from The Thunder Birds.