Parker (Jason Statham) carries a thieves code, a superficial list of niceties in dealing with the criminal underground. He steals from the rich to give to the poor (mostly himself), only kills those who deserve it (anyone in his way), and won’t take a payout to play dead (he’d rather others be dead).
So yeah, an all around kosher guy.
Betrayed after a heist at the Ohio State Fair (!), Parker’s vengeance quest traverses grand ol’ America to hunt down a crew headed by top tier bad guy Michael Chiklis, now stationed in sunny Florida. Parker’s tale is thick for dramatic revenge, crime bosses and referenced syndicates clustered around a personal story of blood-soaked, reactionary violence.
Siphoning a perky performance from Jennifer Lopez – who only plops into the screenplay midway through – Parker starts and stalls, headed by fight scenes competently edited with enthusiasm. Statham’s role is often reserved, peeking over his shoulder in distrust until the screen explodes with knife-wielding antagonists. It’s enough to service punches and shattered windows, certainly plentiful death too, becoming sufficient entertainment in its process.
Donald Westlake’s novels were certainly richer with stretches of context applied to Parker himself. Words are just that: Words. Parker’s insinuation he plays to code is loose and ill-defined, running through the film with a pulse that rarely rises. Character is not so much defined as it is played to Statham’s manly strengths. Does he punch people? Shoot people? Stab people? Good, that’s what people came to see anyway.
Parker is able to sustain a two-hour runtime, purposed with clean heists and shady deals, up until a numbing third act closure that serves as a flimsy head scratcher. Already contrived into the narrative, Lopez makes a preposterously poor judgment call, forcing Statham’s hand at the horror game. Slipping into shadows to take down villains who (of course) split individually lends the piece a tense, if ridiculously stupid, cap.
Leaving on a moral message built upon characterized, superficial rich Palm Beach denizens, Parker dumps stolen cash into the lap of its characters, shipped naked inside a Fed Ex box. There’s no safer way to transport a few hundred grand than flimsy cardboard enclosures. No question, however, the funds are dirty. Righteousness is portrayed under the cover of America’s growing dissent toward wealthy hierarchy, yet leaves even the innocent amongst the cast dirty. Parker is a “no one wins” kind of movie, purposed into a sub-happy ending where few characters are particularly deserving.
Parker’s use of the Red Epic is almost invisible, and without knowledge of such in tow, visuals could pass as film-captured. While thrifty with black levels, Parker is dense with fidelity and fine detail, pieced together with sharp close-ups. Facial definition is a consistent player, rarely straying from natural light, allowing the camera to absorb image complexities. Periods of noise, relegated to backgrounds, are few. Oddly, those occur during the day, not prone-to-video-noise nighttime environments.
Abnormalities in source photography only deal in flashbacks, run over with a filter and bloom effect to render them particularly dreamy. Parker finds himself looking back often in the first act, sometimes unnecessarily so, scenes cut by the persistence of digital tinkering.
Pleasing to the eye with natural color, busting through with often dominating contrast, flesh tones are left unscathed. Highlights of Florida’s ocean views, lush plant life, and stunning water vistas are presented with enough heft to sell beauty within the location.
One element draws ire, those aerial views of Florida which exhibit harsh, edge enhancement driven visuals that clash with clarity elsewhere. Even shots of Chicago and stunning opening views of southern Ohio are naturally vivid. For whatever reason, the key locale has been tampered, and those shots are used often.
Opening ambiance is stupendous, the fairgrounds alive with activity, including a marching band that is unmistakeably natural as it swells into the stereos and rears. Worry over the pittance of LFE from propane explosions are nullified later in flashback when the scene is repetitiously used, and fireworks late break free within an enclosed location. That will rustle up some low-end energy too.
Parker’s DTS-HD mix is peppered with highs, if little stand-out or substantial. A lengthy hotel room brawl uses the stereos to move location, characters shoved into walls or glass which all break in the appropriate channel. Gunshots carry with zest if not impact, and bullet tracking is not necessary. Shoot-outs are sustained with few rounds.
Director Taylor Hackford dishes information within a commentary track, heading into a slim selection of skippable bonuses. If you’re seeking meaty insight outside of commentaries, eight minutes of Bringing the Hunter to Life is as close as you’ll come. Dictating the translation from book to film and hints toward actual shooting, the feature is unremarkable. Origin of Parker and Who is Parker? a redundant to one another, and combine for seven or so minutes. Broken Necks & Bloody Knuckles adds a dull finality to the disc by showcasing fight choreography.