Movies: "Parker" | Arts & Culture

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Movies: "Parker"
Movies: "Parker"

 

January tends toward movie doldrums, as the big studios focus on the upcoming awards for their December releases.  But a couple of B-movie thrillers have livened things up this month:  first “Broken City” and now “Parker.”

 

“Parker” is based on a novel by the late Donald E. Westlake, who wrote under the name Richard Stark to create a series of books about a stone-cold heist artist with a simple code of conduct:  “I don’t steal from people who can’t afford it and I don’t hurt anyone who doesn’t deserve it.”

 

In this movie, the crooks who join Parker in a big-money heist at the Ohio State Fair, then shoot him and leave him for dead, certainly deserve what’s coming to them.  How that plays out is the basis of our story.  

 

Parker is played by Britain’s Jason Statham, who could probably have carried out this role in his sleep after the “Transporter” movies, in which he is basically the same character, a tough guy with scruples.  And like that character, Parker absorbs and doles out a great deal of pain along the way, with weapons ranging from guns and knives to a shower curtain and a toilet bowl lid.  I’m serious.

 

Unlike his Transporter character, Statham picks up some stellar supporting players in “Parker,” including Jennifer Lopez as Linda, a struggling Palm Beach real estate agent;  Patti LuPone as her soap opera-addicted mother;  Bobby Canavale as a local cop infatuated with Linda;  Nick Nolte as Parker’s confidant and the father of his lady love (attractive Emma Booth);  Wendell Pierce, who played Bunk in the classic TV series “The Wire,”  and longtime TV heavy Michael Chiklis as Melander, the leader of the gang that double-crosses Parker.

 

The action, filmed in no-nonsense style by J. Michael Muro (“Crash” and the terrific TV series “Southland”) ranges from Ohio to New Orleans to Florida, and includes some nasty violence.  

 

Statham is as sinewy and scarred as ever in the title role,but gets one chance to play a different role as a Texas millionaire.  J-Lo is appealing as the woman who tries to help him.  Patti LuPone chews the scenery with a Hispanic accent.  And Chiklis is as bad as ever as the lead heavy.  I also liked Micah A. Hauptman’s performance as the most awkward gang member, tolerated only for his connections.

 

“Parker” was directed by the veteran producer-director Taylor Hackford (“An Officer and a Gentleman,” “Ray”) and was scripted by John J. McLaughlin (“Black Swan”).  

 

This is the third movie based on Richard Stark’s anti-hero.  The best of them is 1967’s brilliant “Point Blank,” directed by then-unknown British filmmaker John Boorman, who went on to make “Deliverance” and “Hope and Glory.”  It starred Lee Marvin and Angie Dickinson.  That movie was remade in 1999 as “Payback,” starring Mel Gibson, the less said about the better.  I should also mention that there is a superb new series of graphic novels based on the Parker character, created by Darwyn Cooke, collected under the title of "Parker, the Martini Edition."  It's like "Mad Men" with guns.

 

“Parker” is rated R for bloody violence, some nudity and language.  I give it a B.

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