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Parker12Parker is a complex character. As the subject of a couple of dozen novels by Donald E. Westlake, he’s a hardboiled thief with a code of criminal ethics that involves doing the right thing, even if it means killing and maiming people.

“Parker” the movie, is Jason Statham film about a hardboiled robber named Parker who is unafraid to kill and maim to get want he wants. Missing is the complexity of character.

After a daring robbery goes bad Parker (Statham) is double-crossed and left for dead. But because the movie is called “Parker,” he doesn’t succumb to the gunshot wounds. Instead he vows to put things right between him and the gang who cheated him out of his $200,000 split of the loot. If you make a deal both sides have to honor it otherwise there’s chaos, he says, “and I won’t let chaos take over my life.”

Except that things get chaotic when he hatches an elaborate plan to get vengeance and his money.

The most shocking thing about “Parker” is that Jason Statham has hair in the opening scene. His usually close cropped do is hidden under a wig that makes him look a bit like George Clooney’s English brother. Other than that this is as by-the-book as it gets.

Statham is playing a variation on his Statham Character #1 in which he plays “loner with a past who must protect a loved one” (as opposed to Statham Character #2 which is the “loner with a past who must protect a youthful innocent.”) The loved one in this case is money, although there are a number of other characters that could easily have taken the place of the greenbacks.

There’s Parker’s girlfriend (Emma Booth), who looks more like his daughter and Nick Nolte, who rasps his way through an extended cameo as Parker’s business partner. If an Emery board could speak it would sound like the rasp Nolte’s vocal chords produce these days. Neither of these characters is given much to do except parade around naked (her, not him) and fill time until the final caper.

More prominent is Leslie (Jennifer Lopez), a struggling real estate agent who as the pseudo-love interest and almost co-conspirator doesn’t have much to do except deliver lines like, “You don’t have to check me for a wire again do you? You can if you want.”
She’s someone who has bought into the America Dream—Lamborghinis, designer clothes—but can’t afford any of it and she’s bitter. Bitter enough to embrace a life of crime.

Whether she’ll be rewarded and whether Parker’s plot pays off is where the movie treads in murky moral territory. For as often as he says things like, “Civilized people need to follow rules—I need to put things right,” the moral here seems to be that two wrongs do make a right.

Bad + bad = good.

The movie is so intent on selling the idea that the vengeful killer is really a good guy that a character at the end actually wonders if he is some kind of angel.

“Parker” is a Jason Statham movie, with all that implies. The good is a brooding physicality he brings to his roles. He looks like he could snap your neck with his steely glare, so when he does it on screen, it works. Trouble is, the mentality behind the muscles to sell a character who lives by his own morally ambiguous rules is simply missing.

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