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Parker (2013)

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 5/21/2013

All Ratings out of
Audio: 1/2

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 5/21/2013

When he first came on the scene in the late 90s, Jason Statham was an interesting guy. He was much leaner than the action stars to which were accustomed and audiences, at least in America, weren't used to a bruiser with a cockney accent. His first starring role in The Transporter hinted at good things to come from someone who was soft-spoken, looked like he had street smarts, and could definitely do some damage. And then something happened to Statham's career. He kept playing the same character over and over. The setting could be different, the time could be different (Death Race), but he was always just Jason Statham. It would seem that if anyone could get him out of that rut, it would be an Oscar-nominated director, right? Let's see if that happens with Parker.

Parker opens with the titular character (played by Jason Statham) and a crew of robbers staging at heist at the Ohio State Fair. Although things go wrong, Parker, Melander (Michael Chilkis), Carlson (Wendell Pierce), Ross (Clifton Collins Jr.) and August (Micah A. Hauptman) get away. When Melander refuses to give Parker his cut unless Parker agrees to join them on their next job, a fight ensues and Parker is left for dead. Bloody, but angry, Parker seeks the help of his old friend, Hurley (Nick Nolte), who has information on Melander's next robbery. Armed with a fake ID and some handguns, Parker makes his way to Palm Beach in order to get his revenge. Their, he uses the knowledge of realtor Leslie Rodgers (Jennifer Lopez) to figure out where Melander and his gang are hiding. Then he begins to plan a way to foil their crime and let them know they messed with the wrong man.

Unlike Jason Statham, Director Taylor Hackford has had a career filled with variety. For starters, he's married to Helen Mirren. In addition, he's directed movies like An Officer and a Gentleman, Dolores Claiborne, The Devil's Advocate, and Ray (for which he received the Oscar nod). Parker is his first big film since 2004's Ray, although he did direct Mirren in a 2010 film entitled Love Ranch, but it didn't seem to get much of a release. The question is, what drew him to this project? He's directed movies which had action elements, but never a true action film -- did he want to add that to his resume? I ask these questions because even in the hands of a skilled director, Parker isn't a very good movie.

Parker is based on the novel Flashfire by Richard Stark, a pseudonym of writer Donald E. Westlake, who wrote over 20 novels featuring the Parker character. This is isn't Parker's first trip to the silver screen, as he's appeared in movies like Point Blank (with Lee Marvin), The Outfit (with Robert Duvall), and Payback (with Mel Gibson). I haven't read one of the Parker novels, but I would guess that they are lean and mean crime thrillers. However, that doesn't explain what writer John J. McLaughlin has delivered such a hollow story or why Hackford has decided to pace the film the way in which he has.

Parker is presumably meant to be a classic "hero with no name" strong and silent type, which is fine, but we literally learn nothing about him, save that he's in a relationship with Claire (Emma Booth), but that's not given much play. The heists are kept very simple, and thus aren't interesting -- this isn't Ocean's Eleven. When you break the plot down, you see that not much happens in the movie, and yet, Hackford has allowed the film to settle on small details. Now, I can be a stickler when it comes to information in movies. If you show a character leave their house and arrive elsewhere, I have an idea of how that happened, you don't need to show them driving or walking there. But, I do like to know how things happen at times. Often in films like this, we wonder how wanted criminals are able to move around like they do. Parker answers those questions by showing Parker robbing a check cashing establishment and obtaining a fake ID. I guess it's good that we get this knowledge, but it certainly slows down what is already a long movie.

And then we have Parker himself. He simply isn't interesting. In preparing to write this review, I saw several comments about Parker and his strict moral code. But, that doesn't change the fact that he's a criminal and we probably shouldn't be rooting for him, morals or not. This character is simply a well-dressed Terminator who takes some licks and keeps coming back. The fact that he's devoted to Claire is supposed to make him more human, but it doesn't work. And if you're checking in to see Jennifer Lopez, don't waste your time. She's not in the movie very much, and when she is, she doesn't add to it. But, if you've always wanted to see her in her underwear, knock yourself out.

While Parker suffers from all kinds of problems, I will say this -- Statham can certainly play a menacing character. At 5' 10", he's not a physical brute, but he's mastered a facial expression which lets others know they've gone too far. He probably should have played the title role in Jack Reacher, for at least we could buy Statham as the loner who takes no crap. In Parker, it simply feels like Statham is playing the same character again, and the weak story doesn't come to his rescue.

Parker does supply us with some interesting facts about Palm Beach on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 36 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear, showing no notable grain and no defects from the source material. The colors look good (we learn in the extras that attention was paid to the color palette) and the picture is never overly dark or bright. The level of detail is very good, as we can see every line on Stathmam's face, and the depth is what we have come to expect from a Sony Blu-ray. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 4.5 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. This is a muscular track and the action scenes show what a well-balanced track should sound like. For example, the opening scene offers explosions which never overpower the sounds of the crowd. The stereo effects are nicely detailed and they remain separate from the surround effects. The subwoofer doesn't rumble, but the bass is clearly present.

The Parker Blu-ray Disc contains a selection of extras. We begin with an AUDIO COMMENTARY from Director Taylor Hackford. Hackford talks us through the story and the characters, as well as tidbits about the source novels in "Bringing the Hunter to Life: The Making of Parker" (7 minutes), which also features comments from Statham. We also get some nice on-set footage here. "The Origin of Parker" (4 minutes) gives an overview of the character and looks at Statham's performance. Oddly, this repeats quotes from the previous featurette. "Broken Necks and Bloody Knuckles" (4 minutes) looks at the stunts and fighting styles used in the film, focusing on Hackford's insistence that the violence feel real. "Who is Parker?" (3 minutes) gives another brief look at the character and the novels, which, once again, repeats quotes from other pieces.

Review by Mike Long. Copyright 2013.