'Parker' a decent escape

Still of Jason Statham in 'Parker'.

Still of Jason Statham in 'Parker'.

Bruce Kirkland, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 2:42 AM ET

Jason Statham is the quintessential man of action. Everything about him on-screen is blunt, rude and feral -- from the shaved head to the savage things he says to survive and thrive in his genre movies. Nothing much changes in his latest action opus, Parker, except that his outlaw is slightly more genteel than usual.

Even the titles of his flicks tend to be like Statham's right jabs to the punching bag: Snatch, Mean Machine, The Transporter, The Italian Job, Collateral, Chaos, London, Revolver, Crank, War, The Bank Job, Blitz, Killer Elite, Safe, The Expendables 1 & 2 and now Parker. His debut flick, Guy Ritchie's Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, had one of the longest, most provocative titles of any Statham movie ever. Otherwise, his starring vehicles get right to the point.

Parker is not to be confused with the 1986 British film of the same name, starring Bryan Brown. Instead, this is Taylor Hackford's overdue adaption of the late novelist Donald E. Westlake's 19th Parker novel, which he wrote using the pseudonym Richard Stark.

The character that Statham plays is a "ruthless" thief, a consummate professional. This movie, however, seems to slightly soften him without losing sight of the fact that, in Parker's world, crime does pay. So any morality group concerned with how Hollywood portrays sex, violence, death and larceny should just back off and ignore Parker. Otherwise, it will drive those people wild.

As for the rest of us, who look to genre entertainment for escapism, Parker has a lot going for it. The movie is the story of how the character Parker engages as the wild card in a high-stakes Florida jewel heist after his partners in an Ohio crime try to kill him off. Revenge is sweet, even when bloody.

The plot of Parker involves some stupid thing about a jewel collection being auctioned off after the death of an uber-rich Florida socialite. Who cares? This is what Hitchcock called a McGuffin -- an irrelevant plot that gets thing moving. The point is that Parker gets involved because the gang looking to execute the heist is composed of lowlife thugs who betrayed him on the Ohio job. Statham's Parker is the elephant of legend: He never forgets.

The movie's weakness is Jennifer Lopez. It is not just that she is an awful actress. She is also annoying as a character. Lopez plays a high-end real estate agent whose career is stagnating. Somehow, somewhere, whatever, she becomes involved with Statham's Parker when he poses as a Texas tycoon looking to buy Florida real estate. Absurdly, the two become partners in crime.

Fortunately, Statham and Lopez are not romantic partners because Parker already has a lady love (Emma Booth), who can also stitch him up after gun-and-fist fights because she is a registered nurse.

In Parker, the movie, the pleasure comes in the playing out of the scenario -- the dialogue, the moral ambiguity, the playfulness. Anything else is ridiculous.

bruce.kirkland@sunmedia.ca

This film is rated 14A.


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