Culture

A dull man named “Parker”

parker

Parker

dir. Taylor Hackford

Release Date: Jan 25, 13

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Remember when Out of Sight came out, and all critics could talk about was the smoldering, seductive chemistry between Jennifer Lopez and George Clooney? This was a simpler time for Lopez, before Bennifer and Gigli and a marriage to a petite gentleman and American Idol. She was a future starlet, the kind of magnetic presence that simply pulled you in. And in Parker, her first starring vehicle since that blockbuster 2010 hit The Back-Up Plan, what’s most immediately noticeable is the absence of that presence.

It doesn’t help that Lopez feels shoehorned into a very different movie. Until about 45 minutes in, Parker is about the titular con man for hire (Jason Statham), who pulls off elaborate stickups while abiding by a code of his own creation. It’s simple: In and out, only rob people who have money to lose, nobody gets hurt. As is often the case with action film protagonists’ moral codes, the film-opening raid on the Ohio State Fair leads to Parker’s being broken. He and his crew (Michael Chiklis, Wendell Pierce, Clifton Collins Jr. and Michah Hauptman, all underserved) get in and out with their money, but with an unplanned fatality left in their wake. Despite this, the crew looks ahead to their next job, and when Parker isn’t interested in joining them for an encore, he’s shot and left for dead alongside a river. What ensues, to a point, is a tightly paced revenge tale, centered on a bloodthirsty Statham working through supporting characters at alarming speeds.

And that film, the one styled after Death Wish, is a pretty entertaining if insubstantial action movie. But when Leslie (Lopez) shows up, as a sexy real estate agent in Palm Beach who ends up playing a debatably key role in Parker’s quest, Parker becomes a very different movie, and a less interesting one. Given that the film establishes early that much of Parker’s redemption quest is based around trying to ensure the safety of his wife (Emma Booth) and longtime associate/father-in-law (Nick Nolte), it’s hard to root for sparks to fly between Lopez and Statham, when the best possible outcome for Parker then becomes the hero cheating on his wife with a stranger. Also, where Statham has done so many Parkers in his career that it’s become his natural mode, Lopez doesn’t have the chemistry with him that, say, Amy Smart managed in the Crank movies. In large part it’s because actors seem to work better with Statham when they play around him instead of trying to play back and forth with him. Statham and Lopez never really click, and when that seems to be the desired selling point of Parker, something’s gone wrong.

Lopez, for her part, is entertaining enough. She’s clearly invigorated by a script that asks her to drop some F-bombs and vamp it up a bit more than she’s been allowed lately. That said, Parker does her a disservice by asking her to anchor a movie that becomes a different one when she appears. The film’s final 40 minutes or so move rapidly between cat-and-mouse interplay with its leads and a heist story that conducts itself as being a lot more complicated than it actually is. And sure, blood is shed, revenge is had and Lopez is put in danger in a thoroughly unpleasant scene in which poor Wendell Pierce has to pointlessly tease sexual assault, but none of it adds up to anything remotely memorable. Parker is one of those movies you watch on TBS at 2 p.m. when you’re home on a sick day, but what’s perhaps most disappointing is that it’s hard to imagine it getting any better.