Director Taylor Hackford has been making movies for upwards of three decades now, which is only a small part of what makes his latest, Parker, so frustratingly awful. While the reasons why this has occurred are pure speculation, there is a sense that the 68-year-old Hackford — who hasn’t had a hit since Ray nearly a decade ago — is simply going through the motions. There’s a certain amount of basic technical prowess on display, but this is a film doomed by lack of energy, imagination or personal vision. The lack of artistry combined to make an impotent, languid movie that’s little more than an overlong bore. Parker feels like filmmaking for the sake of a paycheck.
The pity in all of this is that there’s some potential here. The movie resurrects Donald E. Westlake’s callous, unrepentant anti-hero Parker, who was most famously played by Lee Marvin in John Boorman’s Point Blank (1967). Cast in the role is Jason Statham, modern cinema’s most charismatic and — if the Crank films, for instance, are any indication — least serious action hero. Parker should be a flippant revenge flick centered around an unscrupulous — yet likable — reprobate, played by one of the few actors who’s built for that sort of weightless role. But Hackford has decided to make a straight-faced action flick with zero energy, fun or forward momentum. Think of Parker as the anti-Crank: slow, plodding, flaccid and completely void of creativity. It’s not that difficult to get it right. Good — or even decent — action films have a simple formula, and Hackford gets all of it wrong.
Besides the aforementioned lack of verve, there’s the runtime. There’s simply not enough plot to justify the nearly two hours of film we get. All we have is Parker out for revenge against the former partners who double-crossed him and left him for dead. Actually getting to the revenge part takes a whole lot of meandering. There’s just too much fat and too many divergent tangents — from Leslie (Jennifer Lopez), a real estate agent who decides to help Parker as a means of keeping the bank from repossessing, yes, her Mazda, to a hitman out to off our protagonist — and the film grinds to a halt too often because of them. Then there’s the meager budget, which isn’t totally the film’s fault, of course, but Hackford has no sense of economy and relies on distractingly chintzy CGI blood and flat cinematography. (All of which ties into Parker’s lack of inspiration.) One incredibly gratuitous scene featuring Lopez in her underwear is the least sensual “sexy” scene I’ve ever witnessed, as the camera leers over her like some creepy old perv. And this isn’t even getting into the jumbled mess that Parker pawns off as fight scenes. Parker’s cast — who don’t seem to have been informed they’re acting in such a dreadful film — are the only thing keeping Hackford’s movie from being completely worthless or being released straight to DVD. Rated R for strong violence, language throughout and brief sexual content/nudity.
Playing at Carolina Asheville Cinema 14, Epic of Hendersonville, Regal Biltmore Grande, United Artists Beaucatcher Cinema 7