#20 - Parker (2013) Taylor Hackford - 1/29/2013
First of all, if you’re a fan of the character Parker as popularized by Darwyn Cooke, run away as fast as you can, for you’ll be sorely disappointed. A movie based on the Parker of The Hunter or The Outfit, with a visual style influenced by Cooke, would have been an amazing movie indeed.
What we get, instead, is an action/heist-ish movie that’s all process and almost no payoff, based on one of the later Parker stories. If the film is faithful to the book (Flashfire), it makes me think that perhaps Donald Westlake was getting soft in his golden years. Gone is the cold cruelty of Parker, an uncaring, ruthless force. In his place is a truffle of a Parker - a hard outer shell with the calculated drive to regain what he is owed because of the principle of it all, but with a gooey center.
As an action/heist-ish movie, it’s not terrible, but I was far too disappointed by what could have been to be anywhere near satisfied with what I got. Jason Statham is perfectly serviceable, but there must be something in his contract where he always has to play the bad boy with a heart of gold. It’s annoying. Parker shouldn’t have a heart of gold, he shouldn’t have a heart. The rest of the performances ranged from not bad/strange (J Lo, Patti LuPone) to terrible (Michael Chiklis, Nick Nolte). I quite liked Emma Booth as Parker’s girlfriend, and actually didn’t mind the character too much.
Along with Magic Mike and Killing Them Softly, this is another movie played against a background of the economic crisis. Leslie (Lopez) is a casualty of the economic meltdown, desperately needing (and failing) to sell luxury that she can never afford. Lopez did an excellent job in the moment where she expresses her frustration at being constantly faced with that irony, but the movie treated that moment almost as a throwaway in the scene and in the film. Where Magic Mike subtly infused details of the economy into almost every scene, or where Killing Them Softly made very loud and very angry comments about the economy in almost every scene, Parker wastes an opportunity to make a much more interesting statement.
I found Leslie to be a compelling character, yet puzzling. Lopez does a very good job portraying her resiliency in the face of economic despair. It’s clear that the character is supposed to be sharp and perceptive, which I liked, but Lopez also plays the character a bit ditzy, which I didn’t like, but that in itself is an interesting comment on a woman who is smarter than she looks and who knows she can use that to her advantage at times, so maybe I liked that choice after all? I also wasn’t quite sure of what to make of Leslie’s overt attraction to Parker/ desperate seduction attempts. It was kind of refreshing to see a woman’s sexual desires shown, something not commonly shown in this way. It was also kind of refreshing to see audience expectations subverted. But it was also disconcerting to see it played as sad desperation.
I loved the look of the place markers, but they could have used a few more; the inconsistency felt sloppy. All of the daytime scenes felt too bright and washed out, and enough with the goddamn close ups!
But what bothered me most were the flashbacks - never my favorite technique, even when done well, but here they were particularly inelegant and just plain dumb. Especially when Parker is reliving a scene that happened exactly five minutes ago, that the audience all lived through exactly five minutes ago, and which was particularly painful the first time around.
This isn’t a terrible movie, but there’s almost nothing surprising or outstanding about it, nothing that really elevates this movie to something I would recommend.
This is a movie that Tim and I watched for our Spoiler Series.