Parker is a movie as bland as its title. Try as filmmakers might even ones with a semi-distinguished pedigree like Taylor Hackford Jason Statham remains a dead-eyed expressionless lug. You can dress him up in a shark suit you can give him a pair of David Caruso shades and he’ll still be a blunt instrument. Arnold Schwarzenegger in The Last Stand looks like a product of the Actors Studio by comparison.
Hackford’s paint-by-numbers heist thriller begins with the title character a slick fixer-for-hire with an arsenal of lethal skills helping stage a robbery at a San Antonio carnival. Amidst the livestock contests and funnel cake vendors is apparently a lot of money ripe for the taking. Parker’s been hired by a grubby crew to make off with the cash and so he’s dressed as a priest to undermine the fairground security without suspicion. Wearing a priest’s collar and frock highlights the contrast inherent in Statham’s cinematic persona: a placid exterior belies the explosive dynamo of pain he’s shortly to become. When the hold-up finally begins Parker calms down a terrified security guard who’s having a full-blown panic attack and it becomes clear we’re supposed to not only identify with this criminal but admire him for holding the hand of one of his victims. Of course as soon as the heist is over his cohorts led by a positively reptilian Michael Chiklis turn on him take his share and leave him for dead.
The movie tries to become a patchwork quilt of modern-day Americana hopscotching from dusty Texas to its polar opposite: the gleaming pastel-hued millionaire’s row of Palm Beach. Bingo halls exchanged for country clubs. One scene in particular in which Parker is assisted by a throat cancer patient with a vocoder hints at some latent desire of Hackford’s to create an American picaresque which means an ugly procession of stereotypes and grotesques.
With help from his mentor (Nick Nolte whose voice has become a rasp for the ages) Parker slowly sniffs out his two-timing colleagues. There are only so many places to hide in Palm Beach so he has an effervescent realtor (Jennifer Lopez insouciant locks never seeming to lack a wind machine) show him around and let him know what Texans may have been buying up property of late. Lopez’ Leslie Rodgers has a streak of larceny herself but it never bounces off Statham to produce any heat hormonal or otherwise. Actually Lopez’ scenes that really show chemistry are those opposite Patti Lupone as Leslie’s overbearing terror of a mother. The Broadway vet seems to be the only one actually having fun in this whole creaky affair. If Lopez had hoped that Parker would return her to sexy Out of Sight territory she’ll have to go back to the drawing board. It seems the first syllable of Taylor Hackford’s last name has proven stunningly accurate.