Movie Review: Parker- A Typical Heist Movie that Replaces Genuine Tension with Bloody Spectacle

1-parker-review-art-g86lap00-1pkr-013221358358751Heist movies haven’t exactly lived up to the inspiring and genre fulfilling classics like Rififi or the original Italian Job. In fact, the art of suspense and the writing finesse for sympathetic character connection has been on the drastic decline over the past 20 years when it comes to the heist movie genre. Everything at this point has been regurgitated to the point of tiring strain making any generic heist movie seem too familiar or too expected to be entertaining. Mix that formula with another bland ingredient known as Jason Statham and you’re guaranteed a prime example of typical Hollywood junk. Statham’s latest action film is Parker, an adaptation of a character created by novelist Donald E. Westlake and directed by the hack of hacks Taylor Hackford. Surprisingly it isn’t Statham that is the weight holding down this poor regurgitated mess because he commands the screen with a charisma that he’s learned from his past experience doing mindless action hokum.  Instead it’s the poor adaptation of the material, sloppy choices in editing, and especially Jennifer Lopez that torpedo this otherwise violently entertaining hogwash. Ultimately Parker fails on multiple levels the first and foremost being an engaging heist movie since this one lacks intriguing or unexpected twists and basically force feed your sympathies for the character in an unnatural way. The next step of failure is just fulfilling the basic standard of a Jason Statham movie and since this is far from being his best pointless work it just becomes increasingly forgettable. Finally the film as a medium of entertainment fails because it tries to substitute genuine storytelling with distracting bloody action sequences that are seldom and far too predictable. Parker has done nothing to change the fact that Heist movies are plagued by formula but has proven that Jason Statham is as reliable and cinematically unhealthy as a movie version of the Big Mac.

If you didn’t know the character Parker was a good guy despite the fact that he’s a professional thief the movie goes to great lengths to remind you of this professional criminal’s heart of gold every step of the way. The art of subtlety is gone from the widespread cinematic world as blatant expressed dialogue supersedes simple action or visual cues and that’s just one of the troubles with Parker.  It seems screenwriter John J. McLaughlin (Hitchcock, Man of the House) casually adapted the 19th novel in the Parker series “Flashfire” to bring us a sloppy introduction to the character. Parker follows a professional and principled thief called Parker who gets betrayed after a job and he sets out to right the wrong on him and the ones he loves. It always begs the question with movies such as Jack Reacher and Parker, why did they not start from the very beginning in the adaptation material? The opening of the movie attempts to have the tension of a heist but you never feel the pressure or sense any danger to the process due to an odd choice of juxtaposing the heist with the backstory of the heist. Introducing the lead character inspires some eye rolling and yawning as they desperately try to convince the audience that this guy is indeed a good guy despite the whole gun wielding and money stealing action contradicting it. The real snoozer part of the script is the Jennifer Lopez addition of the storyline that involves money problems, divorce problems, and using real estate knowledge to aid Parker in finding out the bad guy heisters plan. Really the script is a display in basic construction of a typical Hollywood plotline that has little ingenuity and mimics better films. Add a little overrated Taylor Hackford direction and you definitely have a movie not worth watching.

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Not many people recognize Taylor Hackford’s name because he isn’t extremely well known as a director though you would recognize some of his works, such as The Devil’s Advocate, Proof of Life, and his Academy Award nominated directing achievement for Ray. Hackford is one of the hack of hacks with the likes of Cameron Crowe because his career is a series of mediocre projects, including Ray. If you ever need proof that his talents are extremely limited then go out and rent his last film Love Ranch. A convoluted heist movie in the hands of Hackford could never gain genuine entertainment traction because it lacks the basic storytelling conventions that he’s used to butchering. All throughout Parker there are questionable creative choices in shots, acting techniques, and especially post-production assembly that suggest that this movie needed to be saved from utter failure from on-production choices. Instead of suspenseful camerawork or moody lighting to generate the feeling of a heist it is all dependent on pure action. Character development is sacrificed for bland overstated dialogue, heart pounding action is replaced by bloody spectacle, and involving tension is tossed away for no good reason at all. There are no distinct creative choices but rather the adoption of a typical Hollywood filming style and that’s all due to the safe choice in getting Taylor Hackford, which unfortunately meant that no matter how talented your actors might be their performances would definitely lag.

Jason Statham isn’t a prime example of acting capabilities nor do his movies demand he showcase any type of emotion and Parker successfully carries on that tradition. Luckily Statham has developed a screen presence that isn’t repulsive or requires a gag reflex warning since he comes as advertised. Whether you’re dealing with the obnoxious Crank series or the repetitive Transporter trilogy you know what you’re getting when you enter the theater. With Parker, however, you don’t necessarily get what you came to see because a decent amount of Statham’s typical bravado is taken away by a distracting and annoying storyline with Jennifer Lopez. Lopez desperately wants to return to acting on the big screen but that sort of requires the ability to act. The only thing Lopez has proven in Parker is that she still has an appealing body image but not much else going on to distract us from the terrible delivery or the waste of space her story takes up in the film. Basically in Parker if you’re a Jason Statham fan you get about half a Jason Statham movie filled with blood, gunfire, and clowns but then you get a Palm Beach real estate commercial in the middle of your film. All of the other actors from Michael Chiklis to the odd addition of Nick Nolte just seem like lazily written characters to fulfill basic archetypal plot functions and it makes most of the scenes feel stale.  Adding up all of the elements it seems you have a paralyzed action film with uncreative direction, uninspiring acting, and a familiar heist plot that lacks successful tension to make it interesting.

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Heist movies might be on the disappearing side of intriguing genres because no one has been able to successfully break away from the formula it’s been given. If Parker is the latest attempt at making an entertaining heist film then it’s definitely a plot construction that might be on the endangered species list. Director Taylor Hackford and screenwriter John J. McLaughlin have turned Donald E. Westlake’s long running series into something bland and uninspiring, which is something that might make the late author turn in his grave. Jason Statham movies aren’t out to be creative or artistically viable but they are supposed to be entertaining and that definitely can’t apply to the full length of Parker. While Statham brings his charming screen presence it doesn’t carry the film beyond the typical plot, the odd creative technical choices, and the lame side story involving Jennifer Lopez. Even Jason Statham loyalists will be disappointed with the lack of action sequences as it turns from bloody grit action to a Palm Beach infomercial featuring a washed up actress. Half of Parker is slightly credible despite its formulaic approach but the experience as a whole is just something to pass by.

Grade: C-

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Comments
One Response to “Movie Review: Parker- A Typical Heist Movie that Replaces Genuine Tension with Bloody Spectacle”
  1. Alex says:

    I see you like Jason Statham movies. I already watched this film, and made a little review too, here it is if you’d like to check it out : Parker Review. If want to leave a reply, telling me what you think about this movie, then fell free to do it.

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