Donald E. Westlake’s crime fiction series, starring the simply titled Parker has been adapted and used for a variety of films in the past, although never with the characters name intact. Most recently Mel Gibson used the character for his tough-and-gritty thriller Payback. Finally though, with the help of former British Olympic diving competitor-turned-action star Jason Statham, it gets a full film adaptation in the subtly titled Parker.
Parker is a professional thief who doesn’t hurt innocent people and only steals from those that can afford it. His boss Hurley (Nick Nolte) sends him to do a job at a funfair with a gang of thieves he’s never met. The gang members, including Melander (Michael Chiklis) want him to come along on another job, but Parker refuses and is shot and left for dead. Miraculously surviving the encounter, Parker begins to track down his former cronies looking for revenge, but the appearance of realtor Leslie Rogers (Jennifer Lopez) causes a slight change in his plans.
Jason Statham is carving an impressive niche for himself as an action hero of some note. Following in the footsteps of Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger he knows what his limitations as an actor are and simply produces films that play to his strengths. In the case of Parker, these strengths are violent action, quippy one-liners and his British accent. As standard he shares little to no chemistry with Jennifer Lopez, who might have thought this would do for her career what Out of Sight did. It will not.
What could have been a by-the-numbers action film is given a lease of life by the endearingly charismatic Statham and a series of spectacularly entertaining heists. Sure it’s silly, the central couple have no chemistry and the middle drags terribly, but Parker ignores these obvious flaws and creates a fun, extremely violent thrill-ride of an action film.