MRR Review: "Parker"

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Jason Statham and Jennifer Lopez team up in this crime thriller about a professional thief with a unique code of ethics. Parker (Statham) has been double-crossed by his crew, his stash stolen before he's left for dead. Determined to get even, he dons the disguise of a rich Texan before heading down to Palm Beach, where the crew is planning their biggest heist ever. With the help of an unlikely partner (played by Jennifer Lopez), Parker devises a plan to hijack the score, take everyone down and get away clean. Based on a best-selling novel by Donald E. Westlake.
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MRR Review: "Parker"

-- Rating: R
Length: 118 minutes
Release Date: January 25, 2013
Directed by: Taylor Hackford
Genre: Action, Crime

Is there anything that action star Jason Statham can't do? Whether it's jumping from a moving vehicle, scaling a building, or taking down a bad guy, he manages to do at all in style. In "Parker," he gets the chance to showcase his action talents with Jennifer Lopez on his arm.

The character of Parker (Statham, "The Transporter") appeared in dozens of films since Donald E. Westlake created the character in the 1960s, but this film from director Taylor Hackford ("The Devil's Advocate") updates the character for a new generation. While the action sometimes feels a little formulaic, the film offers the action that fans expect from Statham.

"Parker" opens with a shot of a priest staging a robbery in the middle of a state fair. Within seconds, the priest reveals himself as Parker, a professional robber stuck with a group of men who care more about the score than the people around them. Parker steps up to help protect those stuck in the crossfire, which doesn't please Melander (Michael Chiklis, "Fantastic Four"), the leader of the gang.

Melander makes a deal with Parker: help him on a future job, and he can walk away with a large amount of money. When he refuses, Parker finds himself near death. Parker later confronts his former crew in Miami, where he disguises himself as a Texas oil tycoon. Once he meets a real estate agent named Leslie (Lopez, "The Back-Up Plan"), his plans change. It doesn't take long for Leslie to discover his true identity, but instead of turning him into the police or his crew, she agrees to help him in exchange for a reward.

Lopez recently took a break from acting to focus on her career as a singer and judge on "American Idol." Her most recent films were romantic comedies that seldom stretched her range as an actress. With "Parker," she finally gets a chance to show off her talented side. The chemistry between Statham and Lopez is palpable, and that chemistry might remind some of the chemistry that she shared with George Clooney in "Out of Sight."

The only problem with Lopez is that she can't quite keep up with Statham when it comes to the action scenes. Statham often does his own stunts, and he has years of experience as an action star under his belt. When the two share scenes that involve any type of danger or adventure, Lopez seems to disappear into the background. It almost feels like the director added her into the scene because she's Jennifer Lopez and a star of the film, and those scenes might do better if the director just let Statham do what he does best.

Statham is clearly the star of "Parker," but the director enjoys dressing him in silly costumes throughout the film. Those who saw the trailer might have noticed the scenes with Statham dressed in a large cowboy hat and trying to pull off a Texas accent. Those cringe-worthy scenes also made it into the film as well as a few scenes where Statham tries out other costumes, including the previously mentioned priest getup.

Overlooking those moments is easy though because "Parker" is a great film, and many of the best scenes rest solidly on Statham's soldiers. Fans of his previous action films will notice a few throwbacks to his previous films. Statham is like a modern-day MacGyver, grabbing whatever tools or items he has on hand to dispense with the bad guys. In one particularly memorable scene, he grabs the lid from a toilet tank to take down one of his foes.

Statham shares several scenes with Emma Booth, the actress playing his girlfriend, and the two have a realistic chemistry that will keep viewers entertained. Nick Nolte also shows up in the film, portraying the father of Parker's girlfriend. Nolte also serves as the heart of the film, acting like a father figure and mentor to the rogue hero. While he doesn't have many scenes in the film, viewers take notice every time Nolte appears onscreen.

"Parker" is based on one of Westlake's classic dime store paperbacks, and Hackford does a smart job of sticking to the original plot. Far too many previous Westlake outings added too many new characters and storylines that detracted from the plot of the book. Hackford keeps things basic and simple, letting the actors tell the story.

While some fans might find "Parker" lacking the action of Statham's previous outings, it is still a solid and entertaining film. Those who want to see Statham take on an iconic character and dispense some old-fashioned justice will enjoy "Parker."

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars