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Parker

Dir: Taylor Hackford. US. 2013. 118mins

Crime thriller Parker gives screen hard man Jason Statham a slightly more substantial role than usual and, in Jennifer Lopez,  a considerably higher profile love interest. But the elements don’t combine to any great effect, leaving this adaptation from the work of pulp novelist Donald Westlake feeling lacklustre and a bit old fashioned.

Statham’s strong silent persona, which sometimes works well in cartoonish action outings like the Transporter series, lacks the dimension to hold up this more naturalistic story.

US distributor Film District will have to hope that older (by the standards of the star’s core following) male and female moviegoers come out in enough numbers to justify the film’s wide Stateside release this weekend. Given Statham’s popularity outside the US the results might be better when the film rolls out internationally, through independent distributors, between now and April.

The script by Hitchcock writer John J McLaughlin is based on Flashfire, the 1997 book by Westlake (using nom de plum Richard Stark) that picked up from the 1962-74 noir novel series following the exploits of a ruthless career criminal (earlier screen adaptations from the series have included Point Blank and Payback).

Statham’s Parker starts off in league with a gang that pulls a big heist at a state fair. But when the gang withholds his share of the loot, Parker tracks them to glitzy Palm Beach and plots his revenge. He’s helped by Leslie (Lopez, last seen in rom-com What to Expect When You’re Expecting), an attractive but down-on-her-luck estate agent.  

A second set-piece robbery concludes the story and in between there are a few bloody but not terribly exciting fights. Too much of the time, though, the film, a rare genre outing for director Taylor Hackford, offers only sketchy characters, cliched dialogue and uninvolving performances.

Statham’s strong silent persona, which sometimes works well in cartoonish action outings like the Transporter series, lacks the dimension to hold up this more naturalistic story. Lopez, who only enters in the second act, adds a bit of low key charm but there’s no chemistry between her and Statham.

The supporting cast - often more interesting than the stars - includes Nick Nolte, Michael Chiklis (from TV’s The Shield), Wendell Pierce (from The Wire) and Australia’s Emma Booth (The Boys Are Back).

Production companies: Incentive Filmed Entertainment, Sierra / Affinity, Alexander / Mitchell Productions, Current Entertainment, Sidney Kimmel Entertainment, Anvil Films

US distribution: Film District

International sales: Sierra / Affinity, www.sierra-affinity.com

Producers: Taylor Hackford, Les Alexander, Steve Chasman, Sidney Kimmel, Jonathan Mitchell

Executive producers: Stratton Leopold, Brad Luff

Screenplay: John J McLaughlin

Cinematgraphy: J Michael Muro

Production designer: Missy Stewart

Music: David Buckley

Website: www.parkermovie.com

Main cast: Jason Statham, Jennifer Lopez, Michael Chiklis, Nick Nolte

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