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A Professional Job

by Shawn Stone on January 31, 2013

Parker
Directed by Taylor Hackford

 

This smart, businesslike crime drama stars Jason Statham as Parker, a no-nonsense criminal with questionable morals but a strict code of ethics. When he’s double-crossed after a robbery by his partners (led by a reliably villainous Michael Chiklis), his only object is revenge—and, as he follows them from the Midwest to Florida, it’s pretty clear Parker’s going to get what he wants.

If this sounds like standard stuff, it is, but it’s standard stuff done well. The ringer in Parker’s revenge plot is struggling West Palm Beach real estate agent Leslie Rodgers (Jennifer Lopez). She spots him immediately as a fish out of water in this billionaire sharks’ enclave, and insinuates her way into his scheme. Lopez does a terrific job of conveying Leslie’s desperation about her situation—she’s pushing 40 and, post-divorce, stuck living with mom—and her ambition to improve her lot, whatever the cost.

Not a love story: Statham and Lopez in Parker

Film buffs will note that Statham’s Parker is the same tough guy created by Donald E. Westlake (writing as Richard Stark) that was played by Mel Gibson in Payback and Lee Marvin in Point Blank (though the character had different names in those films). While Marvin brought a kind of purposeful nihilism to the role and Gibson served up his usual mix of neurosis and sadomasochism, Statham is a more traditional antihero. He doesn’t want bystanders to get hurt, and he wants to bring off his criminal enterprises with a minimum of fuss because, in his view, minimum fuss equals maximum return.

In other words, this Parker is the Jason Statham character we know from the genre that is Jason Statham films.

Statham’s Parker and Lopez’ Leslie don’t set off many sparks, but then Statham’s not George Clooney. He’s a stoic, and is cheerfully remote, even with his regular girlfriend. He’s a throwback: the strong, silent type. There’s a great scene where Leslie returns home to find a bloodied Parker hiding on her mom’s enclosed back porch. After chasing away a nosy cop, she watches incredulously as her mother (Patti LuPone, having a jolly time as a soap-opera-addicted retiree) dotes on Parker while mom’s yappy dog sits, silent and contented, in Statham’s lap.

“Dogs like me,” Parker says in response to Leslie’s visible (and comic) disbelief.

Veteran director Taylor Hackford brings a welcome dose of local color and atmosphere into the proceedings, creating a nice sense of place whether it’s the Ohio State Fair or Florida’s playgrounds of the rich. He doesn’t gin up the suspense and yet delivers the required violence, making Parker a satisfying actioner.