As much as we have embraced the noble hero in literature, TV, and film, we also have gotten to a point where we want our heroes to have a dark side. One of the arguments for revamping Superman in the comic books in the mid-80s was that he was too much of a “Boy Scout do-gooder.” Batman was made darker through Frank Miller and Tim Burton. Even Boba Fett was loved for being the “anti-hero.”
In 1999, Mel Gibson starred in Payback – a movie with the motto, “Get Ready to Root for the Bad Guy.” In it, Gibson played a bad guy who had certain principles and felt that others needed to live up to agreements. It was a decent movie that picked up fans after it moved to cable and home video.
Fast forward to 2012…
Donald Westlake, the author who created the character that was the basis for Gibson’s role, had passed away. After his passing, his wife made a deal for one of his other books to be adapted to film, this time using the true character’s name, Parker. Hollywood’s current go-to action guy, Jason Statham, was immediately signed and filming began.
Parker is adapted from Westlake’s novel, Flashfire. Parker is our protagonist and we are introduced to him and his principles during a heist of the Ohio State Fair box office receipts. What follows is the inevitable betrayal and pursuit of those who did him wrong. The pacing was kept fairly tight for most of the movie, and most of the casting was good. Inevitably, though, I found myself seeing similarity between many scenes and those found in Payback; this time, however, the movie wasn’t filmed in washed out blue tones. The action sequences, while extreme in a couple of instances, were enjoyable and helped keep things moving.
For me, the weakest part of the movie was the involvement of Jennifer Lopez. The movie’s pacing felt like it ground to a halt each time she had a scene, and the justification for radical character shifts in Lopez was extremely weak. It really feels like the producers felt they needed a leading female and potential love story, and they shoehorned this in. To be fair, I have not read the book, so I do not know how this is handled by Westlake. The one positive is that Lopez did the best she could with what she was given.
My advice: Worth catching at a matinee or dollar theater; full price if you really want to see a movie since not much is out right now…