At the Movies with Alan Gekko: Parker “2013”

MPAA Rating: R/ Genre: Action-Thriller/ Stars: Jason Statham, Jennifer Lopez, Michael Chiklis, Wendell Pierce, Clifton Collins Jr., Bobby Cannavale, Patti LuPone, Carlos Carrasco, Micah Hauptman, Emma Booth, Nick Nolte, Daniel Bernhardt, Dax Riggs, Billy Slaughter/Runtime: 118 minutes

“We don’t steal from people who can’t afford it, and we don’t hurt people that don’t deserve it.” Well that sounds pretty darn noble if not slightly like ol’ Robin Hood in certain respects doesn’t it movie goers? Ehhh sort of. I mean yes theft is theft, agony is agony, pain is pain, and blood spilt is blood someone took from someone else no matter if the blood spilt belonged to a good or evil person or someone who is upper or middle class. Yet whilst you can apply all kinds of moral justification to all kinds of activities, I can say for certain that by the time this movie is done, you and the main hero will learn that there is a lot of agony in the world of robbery especially when things get personal and the payoff is more revenge-oriented than one rooted in loot and/or cash. Indeed based on a character created by a man named Donald Westlake, the 2013 slice of cinematic pie adaptation that is Parker manages to make for another time around a distinct carousel of sorts for its main lead Jason Statham in a land of pitch-black and quite visceral action movies where we see this iconic thespian join together grunge with smooth, and gory with fearless to quite engaging results. No this slice of cinematic pie does not get any credit from me for being the most novel in the world, but I do praise this film for being quite potently entertaining. Suffice it to say then that Parker truly is riveting, skillfully made, and speedy film helming in the Action genre that, despite falling quite rapidly after a riveting beginning, still manages to stay on track just enough to keep you interested all the way to the point where the end credits finally begin to roll….

The plot is as follows: Parker tells the story of a man by the name of (what else?) Parker who is a distinct charter member of that organization known as criminality. That is because Parker, unlike many of his cohorts, is a thief equipped with a code which takes the form of the fact that he only steals from those who he feels can take the hit and still be ok with it, and will only do a job if he can also keep any “innocent individuals” safe who inevitably become wrapped up in the heist as it goes along. To that end, we see that for his latest heist he has, at the behest of long-time mentor Hurley, been attached to working with a quartet of pros to steal a decent pile of dough from no less than the Ohio State Fair. To that end we see that the job goes off like clockwork, even if the group member tasked with causing the diversion changes the plan slightly and an innocent person loses their life as a result, and the group manage to get the heck out of there. Yet before they are able to divvy up their loot, the rest of the group headed by a guy named Melander, try to get our intrepid hero not to cash out and instead use it as further bankroll for another job that will get each of this band of thieves quite a bit more money than what they just netted. However when our stoic and stalwart hero firmly refuses, we quickly see him backstabbed, beaten up, shot at, and left on the side of the road to rot….even if rotting is far from what he winds up doing. This is because our intrepid hero finds himself saved by a family of good Samaritans and, after giving himself time to heal, heads out to Palm Beach in Florida where the rest of the group is in the midst of getting set for that job they were talking about. Once there, we see Parker join forces with a financially desperate yet resourceful real estate agent, and from there it is up to our unlikely duo to not only get Parker his revenge, but maybe get their hands on a prize that for one is justification for what he is doing and for the other gives her an opportunity to clear the slate and at long last start fresh with her life….

Now whilst in no way, shape, form, or fashion should Parker be seen as a slice of cinematic pie that is one dimensional by any means, it is also worth noting that this is most assuredly not a riveting movie or a fountain of artistic genius either. Indeed this is one film whose narrative makes its way through material we have all seen before, but at least this movie makes the hike on this familiar path with a skill that strengthens viewing this slice of cinematic pie rather than makes you feel like you have seen all of this before. To that end, this is one movie that aims no higher than engaging audiences as a potent and entertaining entry in the action genre to say nothing of being a fit, brutal, visceral, and blood-drenched cinematic outing that operates off the gruff potency of its lead star and constructs a film around him that operates to his strengths as an actor. Put another way this movie is more down to earth than the over the top Crank films and more potent and skillfully made than any of the 3 Transporter movies. Rather, this movie manages to locate and utilize a wonderful balancing act that, more than most movies where Statham is billed before anyone else, comes to showcase for us what watching a “Jason Statham film” is all about. It also certainly doesn’t hurt that film helmer Taylor Hackford manages to showcase a quite wonderful degree of skill for making the kind of action film that seems tailor made for an actor like Statham and as such is able to showcase for us with skill and grace the kind of action moments that have made Statham an action star the past 2-3 decades. Thus this is a film that fits the mold of one operating on expectations. By that I mean if you go into this expecting to see a visceral and entertaining time to be had watching Jason Statham deliver a vicious beat down then you will be happy, but anything else and I feel like you might walk away from this disappointed to say the least.

Now of course it is not exactly a spoiler to reveal that the performance given by Statham is most assuredly the main motivator to give this slice of cinematic pie a view though in all fairness the gorgeous Jennifer Lopez does contribute more to this movie than just being proverbial eye candy. Indeed Lopez manages to find a gentle yet subtle touch of comedy to help balance out the visceral content that is spread out throughout the movie. Yes her role in this is quite unfairly limited to working within a distinct character archetype of sorts, but she does manage to bring a decent amount of charm and style to a part that just feels lazily written in the worst ways possible. Sadly, with that out of the way I think it needs to be said that the rest of the characters involved in this could easily take the chance to make every scene a game of “Guess Who?” and this slice of cinematic pie would not fare bad at all because of it. Heck even screen veteran Nick Nolte and an over the top performance from someone in the vein of Michael Chiklis never really take charge in their screen time and are instead content to just merely operate with the most one-dimensional characters possible that only seem content to wade through the narrative rather than tackle it head on. At the same time though, this slice of cinematic pie does seem to be equipped with both a single rate of speed and a single endgame in mind so I don’t really see that much of a point for laying the blame on the thespians assembled for not being able to find more to their characters when nothing else is provided to them in the first place. Heck even the main characters played by Statham and Lopez characters seem to be one-note as well in that Statham is the man with a honor code who is deadset on seeing his vengeful mission complete and Lopez is the woman who is more drawn to him because he can help her get her finances back on track instead of because she has a thing for him. sigh ah well at least Statham and Lopez, if not else, do seem like they are given the proper screen time and decent enough chemistry together in order to make the most of what little their characters are given to work with in the first place.

Finally, it should also be said that from a narrative structure perspective, this slice of cinematic pie may not waver often when it comes to how intense it is, but it also never is able to top the riveting opening theft that sets the rest of the film in motion. To that end, this movie really does a good job at drawing you in right from the word as the beginning of the film manages to find a brilliant balance in conjuring up a vibe of anxiety even as some kind of action seems predestined to occur. As a result, we see that the cast and crew do a wonderful job at sculpting a very thick layer of suspense and unease and constructing an anxiety-ridden atmosphere over the state fair in a manner that is balanced out brilliantly by the whimsy and fun going on at the various areas of the fair. Sadly the ending heist is nowhere as satisfying as the first one, but at least this slice of cinematic pie can take comfort in comprehending that the final heist is not the main focus of the last third, but rather the beginning of the end so you will be able to stay awake through the rest of the movie. Speaking of the ending of the movie….even though the movie runs close to 2 hours long including credits, the end does manage to come up quite quickly. Indeed this is one film that moves along at a decent clip due to top-notch work in the editing department that sees nothing feeling like it is extra or unnecessary to the film. Suffice it to say then that from a structure standpoint this is one film that is good yet not great. A manner of looking at things that I feel also makes for a wonderful description for the overall movie as well.

All in all I think it is relatively safe to say that Parker is a quite to the point entry in the genre of movie magic known as Action-Thriller that also manages to operate as a showcase for what Jason Statham brings to a film in the process. By that of course I mean it’s visceral, brutal, and hard-hitting in the best ways possible. In that manner, it is also worth noting that this slice of cinematic pie is not that different from the vast majority of films made by Statham before and after this one, but at least this one does give off the vibe of being more to the point, less cheesy, and a little more potent than some of those other films. Thus Parker at the end of the day really truly is a semi-riveting, and dependably engaging enough popcorn action movie that may not be a revelation or be seen 10 years, let alone 5, as a masterpiece, but it should still survive as a film that people will look at as being one film that manages to showcase just what Jason Statham brings to the table as an actor in that he delivers the goods in capable and engaging enough fashion whilst also showcasing a bit of passion under all the blood he spills and the scars he manages to accrue along the way. On a scale of 1-5 I give Parker “2013” a solid 3 out of 5.