An ordinary decent criminal flick.

Released in 2013, certified UK-15. Reviewed on 25 Mar 2013 by Scott Morris
Parker image

It's always good to have some consistency in your life. For some, this may be the welcome routine of family or work life. It may be a ritual catch-up with friends down the pub. If you're a student, it may be getting hammered to the point of vomiting yourself inside out at your neighbourhood's local nightclub every weekend. If you're Jason Statham, it's appearing in at least two crime-based action/thrillers every year. You can practically set your clock by the appearance of his shiny head in cinemas.

Well, that's a lie. As you've probably gathered. However the point I'm trying to get at is valid, and that is that Jason Statham is not known for challenging himself in role selection. Maybe he's not offered them, maybe he's content with the niche he's so very successfully carved out for himself. Whatever the case, the point I'm flailing desperately towards eventually making is that even without having seen a whiff of the cast list, given a rough indication of the plot of Parker, you'd assume El Statho was involved.

Parker is not, sadly, a cinematic outing for Lady Penelope's long suffering chauffeur, or a vehicle based around Simon Munnery's old Alan Parker: Urban Warrior comic creation. It is, in fact, based around Statham's titular Parker, one of those old-fashioned honourable criminals that I'm not convinced ever existed. You know the type - won't rob from anyone that can't afford it, doesn't hurt anyone during the jobs if it's at all avoidable, won't pull a Joker and screw his partners out their cut, loves his mother and all that jazz. In short, the gentleman thief we can all get behind, at least for ninety minutes in a cinema.

We're introduced to him in the middle of a planned heist at the Ohio State Fair, where in a remarkably cheeseball move, he takes time out from the plan to help a young kid win a prize at a side-show. From the outset, it must be said that subtlety is not the film's strong suite. Working with an unfamiliar crew, recommended to him by partner mumblin' Nick Nolte, things start off smoothly enough until 'connected' rookie criminal and all-round asshat Hardwicke (Michah Hauptman) sets a fire intended as a distraction in the wrong place, leading to loss of life. Most irksome! However, Parker and the rest of the gang that Melander (Michael Chiklis) heads up make their escape with a few million dollars.

Sadly, Melander and chums have not been to the same criminal preparatory school as Parker, and have fewer compunctions about this 'honour' stuff. To be fair, they at least give Parker the opportunity to join in with their latest scheme, the jewel heist of a lifetime. However, Parker's not so keen on throwing his lot in with this shower, and wants to shake hands and part ways with his share of the loot. Trouble is, his share of the loot is required to finance the next operation, and this tension comes to a head with Parker left for dead in a ditch.

However, much like the unfortunate case of the man turned into a newt by a witch, he gets better. And he's out for revenge! Well, a sort of revenge. It's not the seething anger of a man wronged vowing a bloody punishment, it's more of the low-key certainty of someone deciding to kill his enemies and swipe their marginally more ill-gotten gains gotten with his ill-gotten gains.

His investigations lead him to Florida, where aided by struggling estate agent Leslie (Jennifer Lopez) he uncovers their hideout and their plan, the foiling of which will bring him into conflict not just with those who have wronged him, but also their friends in Chicago's Legitimate Businesses.

If the above veers into my usual dismissive brand of snarky comments then I should really apologise for it, as Parker is a solid crime thriller that almost visibly oozes competence, which is kinda disgusting. Go clean yourself up, Parker.

There! It's happening again! The problem with Parker is that it's just a little bit too familiar, a little bit too generic to give much of an angle to discuss. There's absolutely nothing wrong with it, really. Statham by this point can do this sort of role in his sleep, and he puts in a solidly charismatic if unspectacular turn. Even Jennifer Lopez, of all people, is charming and likeable in her everywoman role. I'm as shocked as you are. Our villains are a reasonable mix of thug, threat, and cowardly incompetence, that make for a reasonable rogue's gallery to go up against. The heist plans are entertaining and not completely ludicrous.

Hell, the only real negative there is regarding Parker is that it seems from the outset to have aimed for 'OK' or 'alright' or 'fine', or any other term that's reductive of 'enjoyable enough but unremarkable in pretty much every aspect'. It's achieved that, to be sure, but it's not exactly the loftiest of ambitions and you can't help shake the feeling watching this that there's enough talent in front of and behind the camera that this ought to be a lot better than just OK.

Still, for all that, it is OK. It's a perfectly reasonable watch, just not one that stands out in any respect worthy of recommending you pay it more than scant regard when planning your viewing. There's just too many similar, better films out there.

Taylor Hackford
Cast list:
Jason Statham (Parker)
Jennifer Lopez (Leslie Rodgers)
Michael Chiklis (Melander)
Wendell Pierce (Carlson)
Clifton Collins Jr. (Ross)
Michah Hauptman (Hardwicke)
Bobby Cannavale (Jake Fernandez)