Based on Parker novel No. 19, Flashfire, the film puts Expendables team member Jason Statham in a role previously played by, among others, Mel Gibson in Payback, Robert Duvall in The Outfit and even Jim Brown in The Split. Parker is a criminal, but the “good” kind: He doesn’t steal from those who can’t afford it and doesn’t hurt those who don’t deserve it.
He stays true to his word in the opening robbery of the Ohio State Fair cash office. Parker is disguised as a priest; his associates, circus clowns. The job goes over mostly as planned; it’s during the getaway that a squabble over everyone’s cut goes awry, with Parker left for dead roadside.
Led by the knucklehead Melander (Michael Chiklis, TV’s Vegas), Parker’s now-former associates believe he’s expired, which helps him plot a suitable revenge. Unlikely aid comes in the form of a desperate Realtor (Jennifer Lopez, What to Expect When You’re Expecting).
What Parker has going for it is that Hackford doesn’t shy away from hard-hitting violence. (To put it another way, he’s not above showing someone get shot in the crotch.) That’s a least true to the spirit of the character, which the script by John J. McLaughlin (Hitchcock) is not. McLaughlin has the story beats, but not the master’s touch with dialogue. His is flat whereas Westlake’s was aflame. (A Blu-ray featurette delves briefly into the literary character.)
It’s unfair to compare the movie strictly to the books, so remove the association, and one still is left with nice-looking but only mildly involving material. Lopez is its surprise, as she seems to be at ease for the first time since her career best in Steven Soderbergh’s 1998 crime masterpiece, Out of Sight.
Take it or leave it (I’ll always take it), Statham does his thing without any stretching, series of disguises excepted. Putting him in cowboy hats and trucker caps and white collars seems to be Parker’s idea of wit. That’s just Fletch without the jokes. —Rod Lott