Can we get Jason Statham some better material or can he and his agent more actively seek it out? The only genuine action star we have right now (sorry, guys over 60 years old just don't count, agism be damned) can work with a sleek, smart script. As long as we've known just who Statham is, we've known this. His first two films roles, after all, were in Guy Ritchie's cult classics about the London underworld, Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch. Why then, since those first two great films, has Statham been subjected to/subjected us to a litany of unimaginative flicks, the latest of which is Parker?
If you lacked the full context of Statham's career you might think they don't come much more cookie cutter than his newest vehicle, but he's been so ubiquitous in the 2000s, it's hard to imagine that that is even possible. The Expendables. Safe. Killer Elite. Death Race. Now Parker. Statham's post-Ritchie work has essentially bled together into one decade-long wannabe blockbuster with a few noteworthy exceptions. What's frustrating about this isn't that Statham is a lousy excuse for an action star with limited talent. It's precisely that he does have a rather gruff charm about him, and so in that sense it feels a little like he's been wasting our time for the last few years.
Parker, unfortunately, fits in perfectly with this trend. It's your standard Statham revenge vehicle; he plays the titular character, a thief who is betrayed by the rest of his gang after a job and is left for dead in a ditch. He's not dead, of course, just physically scarred and mentally fixated on stealing his former friends' next ill-gotten paycheck and taking them all out in the process. To accomplish this, he tracks them all the way to Palm Beach, Florida where he assumes the identity of a wealthy Texan playboy looking for real estate as a cover for casing their new hideout.
This is where the other film's principal star, Jennifer Lopez, gets involved, playing the part of Leslie Rodgers, a down-on-her-luck divorced realtor who is being strung along by the already romantically entwined Parker on multiple levels. Somehow, this straightforward smash-and-grab film is stretches to a runtime just shy of two hours, an almost incomprehensible length given the simplicity of the characters and the plot.
No Statham film should be that long. And it seems like a venial sin to impose excessive exposition on viewers who aren't really looking for that sort of thing. The mortal sins, though, are the continued pigeon-holing -- self-imposed or not -- of Statham into these banal projects, the utter lack of a villain to get your blood boiling even though Michael Chiklis, Wendell Pierce and terrific character actor Clifton Collins Jr. were among the gang that left Parker for dead at the beginning of the film, the non-existent chemistry between Statham and Lopez despite the fact both are more than capable of generating some. (Out of Sight wasn't that long ago now was it?)
I wish I could explain better exactly what went wrong here, but perhaps that's why I'm so frustrated. Statham can be better than this. So can J-Lo and Chiklis and Pierce. Director Taylor Hackford (Ray, The Devil's Advocate, An Officer and a Gentleman) certainly has better credits on his resume. We've seen them all do it before, so why did they collaborate on such a forgettable slog? Perhaps I'll try and figure it out when I come across Parker again where it would fit better -- on basic cable.