Parker suffers from a disappointing script and a tapered ending that not even Oscar-winning director Taylor Hackford can fix.

Back in 1999, Mel Gibson played the leading role in a film called Payback — a noir crime thriller about a criminal who exacts revenge on the people who double-crossed him. Based on Donald E. Westlake’s crime novels The Hunter and Flashfire, Gibson’s anti-hero returns to the big screen, this time closer to home but retrofitted by a new actor. Played by Jason Statham, the titular Parker is basically the same character as Gibson’s Porter; however, the plot similarities in Payback and Parker are offset by notable levels of disparity in adapting the same character for two different films. Years from now only one of these films will remain in memory.

As a generic assumption I’m willing to wager that not every Jason Statham fan out there is also a fan of Westlake’s books; especially the twenty-four novels he wrote under the pseudonym Richard Stark. As a crime novelist, Westlake can be credited with conceiving the anti-hero in literary fiction — a badass who eventually charms the reader (in this case the viewer) into cheering for him despite his ruthless modus operandi. And so we have Parker, a professional and meticulous criminal with a code of honour: he doesn’t steal from those who can’t afford it and he doesn’t hurt anyone who doesn’t deserve it. While that code sounds like the one practiced by the legendry Robin Hood, Parker is known for getting the job done as long as his crew remains loyal and sticks to the plan. After a near fatal mission arising from a crewmember’s negligence, Parker decides to quit the gang for said reasons. Consequently, ring leader Melander (Michael Chiklis) shoots and leaves him for dead. Obviously, Parker survives, now hell-bent on revenge, finds his former gang in the playground of the rich and famous: Palm Beach, Florida. Sporting a Texan accent on the pretext of buying a lavish house, Parker meets Leslie (Jennifer Lopez), a realtor behind on her bills. Together they discover Melander’s next big heist but not before painfully learning the latter’s connection to Chicago’s equally ruthless underworld.

What follows is a classic case of the hunter becoming the hunted. The problem arises when we realise that Parker and Melander switch positions ever so often. Even if you accept this goose chase as a plot twister, you still have to deal with the film’s two-toned mediocrity. Having previously penned the Academy Award winning Black Swan, John J. McLaughlin’s disappointing script is a vehicle with just two gears: fast and neutral. If action is what you want, you won’t be disappointed with well-executed heists and bloody fight sequences wherein characters use improvised weaponry, everything from guns and knives to shower curtains and toilet seats! For Statham, it’s business as usual when considering the fact that almost every leading role he has played to date is an “anti-hero”. On the other hand, scenes with Lopez stagnates the pace and tone with awkward moments of flat humour. This of course will not prevent swarms of male viewers from happily paying the price of admission to have a glimpse at J.Lo’s posterior and marvel no longer at why it is her most prized ass-et.

For a film that starts off well, Parker suffers from the above problems and a tapered ending that not even Academy Award winning director Taylor Hackford (Ray) can fix. Bullets fly and blood is spilt, but Jason Statham’s Parker cannot match up to Mel Gibson’s Porter and neither can Hackford hold a candle to Brian Helgeland’s Payback.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

About Lloyd Bayer

Besides his passion for travelling, photography and scuba diving, Lloyd is a prolific film critic having contributed hundreds of film reviews to web and print journals, including IMDb and local daily Khaleej Times.