If you’ve ever wanted to see the camel that’s the result of that proverbial horse-building committee, check out “Parker” — and the hump, you’ll pardon the expression, is the character played by Jennifer Lopez. But more on her in a moment.
Jason Statham stars as Jason Statham as Parker, a master criminal who actually believes in honor among thieves. That’s why he’s so furious and out for revenge against the quartet of hoods (played by Michael Chiklis, Wendell Parker, Micah A. Hauptman and Clifton Collins, Jr.) who bungled their recent robbery of a state fair. Oh, and they also shot Parker and left him for dead by the side of the road, but that almost seems like a secondary offense to our hero.
Parker tracks these goons to Palm Beach, where they’re planning a complicated jewel heist, and poses as a Houston billionaire in the hopes of getting real estate agent Leslie (Lopez) to point out houses that have been recently purchased for about a million dollars, which was the take from the state fair job. Never mind that Statham has one of the least convincing Texas accents ever to be heard on the big screen; by this point in the movie, that’s small potatoes.
The problem is that Leslie and her problems (divorced, in debt, living with her mom, hates her job) feel completely grafted onto “Parker” for no apparent reason, except perhaps opening up the film to a female demographic that would otherwise be turned off by this very violent movie; Statham, as tends to be his wont on screen, beats up a lot of people, shoots many more, and winds up bleeding as the result of several vicious attacks.
Director Taylor Hackford is an old hand behind the camera, but he shows no fluidity in going from, say, a clunky expository scene where Leslie spills her complaints to Parker over a glass of Chablis to an intense hotel-room skirmish in which Parker lets a knife cut through the middle of his palm as a way to keep from getting stabbed.
The character of Leslie is made all the more extraneous by the fact that Parker already has a girlfriend (a personality-free pixie played by Emma Booth) — just as well, since Statham and Lopez generate zero chemistry. It’s not entirely Lopez’s fault; can you name any Statham movie where the female lead was more than window dressing? But the screenplay by John J. McLaughlin (“Hitchcock”), based on the popular novel by the late, great Donald E. Westlake (writing as Richard Stark), gives Leslie two basic modes: Squealing Idiot and Useless Hostage.
(Parker has previously been brought to the screen in a variety of much, much better movies, including “Point Blank,” “The Outfit” and even Godard’s “Made in U.S.A.,” where the character was rewritten as a woman and played by Anna Karina.)
And don’t even ask why Leslie’s soap-obsessed mother (Patti LuPone, of all people) would give shelter and succor to a busted-up and bleeding Parker, whom she’s never met.
If “Parker” had just focused on Parker and his bloody mission of vengeance, they might have wound up with an unspectacular but still exciting action movie; Statham, after all, does this sort of thing about as well as anyone on the big screen this decade. Too bad the committee couldn’t just settle for a serviceable horse and instead went for a completely ungainly camel.