x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Parker treads familiar ground

The Jason Statham thriller dots its well-worn route with the odd A-list face.

Jason Statham doesn't offer any surprises in his portrayal of Parker, the anti-hero from Donald E Westlake's crime novels. Rex Features
Jason Statham doesn't offer any surprises in his portrayal of Parker, the anti-hero from Donald E Westlake's crime novels. Rex Features

Director: Taylor Hackford

Starring: Jason Statham, Jennifer Lopez, Nick Nolte, Michael Chiklis

**

Parker brings the uncompromising anti-hero of Donald E Westlake's crime novels back to the big screen following outings in Point Blank, The Outfit and Payback, played by Lee Marvin, Robert Duvall and Mel Gibson, respectively.

Arguably the least of these efforts, this brutal and bloody revenge thriller is notable mainly for its unlikely pairing of the director Taylor Hackford, whose eclectic credits include An Officer and a Gentleman and Ray, and the ubiquitous British action star Jason Statham.

This is the biggest - and, really, only - surprise in a film that is happy to tread familiar ground, dotting its well-worn route with the odd A-list face.

Parker is a crook with a code. He believes in loyalty, an absolute adherence to orders and the idea that a man's word is his bond. "If I say I'll do something, I will. If you say you'll do something and don't, I'll make sure you'll regret it," he warns someone gravely.

The film starts on a high, with a taut robbery sequence at the Ohio State Fair in which one of Parker's crew disobeys a command, causing unintended deaths. When Parker refuses to join the gang on their next job, a violent altercation ends with him being left for dead by the road. Picked up by a passing family, he survives his injuries and sets out to take revenge on his former partners in crime - a mission complicated by one partner's ties to a big-time crime boss in Chicago.

Along the way, Parker is helped by a down-on-her-luck estate agent called Leslie (Jennifer Lopez) whose life has taken a turn for the worse following a divorce. By turns desperate, resourceful, scared, feisty and sad, Lopez is a likeable presence and her character's varied emotional palette provides a welcome contrast to Parker's stolidity.

There are no surprises in Statham's performance, nor in John J McLaughlin's script, which is short on twists and leaves the likes of Michael Chiklis as a bull-necked thug and Nick Nolte as Leslie's father struggling to flesh-out cliched, thinly drawn characters.

Lacking the doomy, brooding existentialism of, say, the brilliant Point Blank, Parker ultimately feels undercooked, although it far exceeds the earlier film in terms of graphic violence. Statham's fans shouldn't be disappointed. However, since Parker requires nothing new of him, this efficient but unadventurous outing is unlikely to expand his audience.