There is something very familiar about the title character of Parker as portrayed by Jason Statham. That is because we’ve seen this character before. In the past however, he didn’t have the name “Parker”.
In Payback he was called Porter and Mel Gibson had the role. Over 40 years ago in Point Blank, he was called Walker and played by Lee Marvin. All three of these movies more were based on novels written by Donald E. Westlake about a man named Parker. Now, for the first time, one of his works has come to the big screen and the character uses the name he was given by the original author.
“Parker” is a thief but he has scruples, rules and standards. He gets offered a chance at a big score by his friend “Hurley” (Nick Nolte), but it means working with a guy named “Melander” (Michael Chiklis) and his crew of three. The score involves stealing roughly $1 million from the Ohio State Fair and the well-planned job should have gone off without a hitch. When “Ross” (Clifton Collins Jr.) doesn’t do what he was supposed to do, where he was supposed to do it, there are problems.
Those problems magnify when Melander won’t give Parker his split from the job, because he needs it for his next score. Which he promises will deliver $2 million to Parker. Parker doesn’t care. He wants his money so he can walk away. There’s a fight and they end up leaving Parker by the side of the road, convinced he is dead. But he isn’t. He survives and plans to get even while stealing the proceeds of the next score in the process.
All he needs to do is find out what that next score is. The story then moves to Miami, where Parker finds himself teamed up with a local real estate agent named “Leslie Rodgers” (Jennifer Lopez). She agrees to help, but wants a cut of the money. Parker soon runs afoul of the mob, and must dodge bullets and Melander’s goons if he wants the big score.
Jason Statham, thus far, has been a one-character-type actor and that’s just fine. He delivers that character with excellence every time out. He does his own stunts, makes the most of any nuances within this character that’s available and manages to do all of that in a very suave manner. As for Jennifer Lopez, this is by far her best performance on-screen since 1998’s Out of Sight. Michael Chiklis can play bad guys effectively in his sleep and Nick Nolte is perfect as Parker’s friend and mentor.
This was Taylor Hackford’s first foray into the action genre and it was an excellent choice to debut with. Armed with an excellent adaptation of Westlake’s novel by screenwriter John J. McLaughlin, and excellent casting, Hackford has delivered another ‘tight’ film that holds the audience’s attention throughout. Hopefully this is not the last of the “Parker” films with these principals involved in production.