You might not know it, but you’ve probably met Parker before. He’s the hard-boiled antihero of 24 novels by Richard Stark (aka Donald Westlake), the first of which – The Hunter – has been filmed twice.
However, when Lee Marvin played him in John Boorman’s 1967 classic Point Blank, he was called Walker. Then when Mel Gibson revived the character for Ron Howard’s 1999 remake Payback, they called him Porter.
Walker, Porter, Parker... why? Maybe because his name is irrelevant; Westlake never even gave him a first name. Man With No Name; man with one name, what’s the difference?
What matters is his unique code of ethics and justice that leaves innocents unhurt and those who help him well rewarded but those who cross him heavier by a few bits of lead.
So with Parker’s background not being much of an issue either, he’s a perfect fit for Jason Statham: diamond hard on the outside, diamond geezer on the inside.
Taking its heist 'n' double-cross opening from The Hunter but mostly based on book #19 Flashfire, Parker unfolds with minimal fuss.
Well, apart from all the shooting, stabbing and unintelligible growling that passes for Nick Nolte’s dialogue these days.
Parker is an old-school thief, just like his girlfriend’s dad (Nolte) who gets him to lead a motley crew - played by seasoned law-benders Michael Chiklis (The Shield), Wendell Pierce (The Wire), Clifton Collins Jr (Crank 2) and the lesser known Micah Hauptman - to rip off the Ohio State Fair.
Bish, bash, boom, job done. But when Parker refuses to pitch in for their next score, they shoot him and leave him for the coroner. Which is to fatally underestimate a guy who has been (and will be) perforated more times than a Tetley teabag... the difference being that this tea-leaf never gets any weaker.
So while they’re planning their once-in-a-lifetime jewel heist down in Florida’s Palm Beach, the resurrected Parker intends to make those lifetimes as short as possible. But he needs to find them first.
That’s where Lopez’s divorced and desperate high-end realtor Leslie comes in. Posing as a wealthy Texan (easy on that accent now, y’hear?), Parker looks like he could be the answer to all her financial – and romantic - woes.
Obviously, she shouldn’t put the mortgage on it. Especially given the added complications that come from her policeman admirer (Bobby Cannavale), Parker’s girlfriend (Emma Booth) and the villains’ connections to the Chicago mob.
As written, Leslie veers between incredibly smart and incredibly stupid. But after a decade of dire romcoms (Maid in Manhattan, Gigli, The Wedding Planner, The Back-up Plan, What To Expect When You’re Expecting), she represents J-Lo’s best work since Soderbergh’s 1998 crime caper Out Of Sight.
Parker’s not as classy as that. But being a Stath Movie™, you wouldn’t expect it to be. What you would expect is lots of guns, scraps and unflinching machismo. With maybe a gratuitous scene of its main female star stripping down to her undies.
Under Taylor Hackford’s efficient direction, Parker delivers on all counts. So once again, job done.