Jason Statham stars as Donald Westlake‘s Parker, a career criminal and anti-hero who keeps to his own code and often, as in this case of this adaptation of Westlake’s novel Flashfire, has to fight for what’s owed him after being double-crossed on the latest score. Statham isn’t the first actor to portray Westlake’s character (Lee Marvin, Jim Brown, Robert Duvall, Peter Coyote, Mel Gibson all played character over the years), but Parker is the first where the title character keeps the name.
The movie begins with a heist of $1,000,000 from an Ohio State Fair by Parker and a group of thieves (Michael Chiklis, Wendell Pierce, Clifton Collins Jr., Micah A. Hauptman) he has never worked with before who take his cut from the job and leave him for dead on the side of the road. The rest of the film revolves around Parker following the group to Palm Beach and shadowing their latest score with the help of a local Realtor (Jennifer Lopez) before finally taking his revenge.
The subplots involving Parker’s loyal girlfriend (Emma Booth) and business partner (Nick Nolte) aren’t really given much time to develop and have the added problem of slowing down the action of the movie each time one of the characters shows up. The film is a mixed success that is at its best with Statham in control of the scene. He’s a good choice for the cool no-nonsense character who refuses to be taken advantage of or give up, but at he same time the actor is almost too cool for a character that gets beaten up as much as Parker does.
Despite in many ways being superfluous to the plot, Lopez is well-cast here as a broke divorcee looking for any way out of her mountain of debt who has been forced her to move in with her mother (Patti LuPone). The scene of her character hitting rock bottom as her car is repossessed is one of the movie’s few truly dramatic moments in a film mostly noted for it’s cool action hero, no nonsense action sequences, and bloody body count.
At 118 minutes Parker is far too long and could certainly use some editing during the middle of the film between where the character is left for dead and finally confronting those responsible. This middle hour, or so, moves in fits and starts, but doesn’t have a great flow (and includes only a single action sequence of note). Parker works as well as most of Statham’s action flicks; it’s enjoyable up to a point but largely forgettable after the credits roll.
The one-disc set includes a digital UltraViolet copy of the film and commentary with director Taylor Hackford discussing his love of the character, the style of the movie, and the challenges of filming the film in Ohio and Louisiana. Also included are a series of extremely short featurettes ranging from 2-7 minutes including a behind-the-scenes look at adapting Westlake’s Flashfire to film, a pair of short looks at the origins of the character and his motivations, and a quick look at the “knife-edge reality” action sequences of the film.
[FilmDistrict, Blu-ray $35.99 / DVD $30.99]