[Screen It]


(2013) (Jason Statham, Jennifer Lopez) (R)

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Action: A master thief vows revenge when he is double-crossed by his partners.
Master thief Parker (JASON STATHAM) is able to pull off an elaborate heist at the Ohio State Fair, stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars in admissions and concessions money. Once clear, his cohorts - Melander (MICHAEL CHIKLIS), Carlson (WENDELL PIERCE), Ross (CLIFTON COLLINS JR.), and Hardwicke (MICAH A. HAUPTMAN) - double-cross him, shoot him, and leave him for dead on the side of the road.

He is eventually saved and hatches a plan with his mentor, Hurley (NICK NOLTE), to exact revenge on the four men even though they have ties to an enigmatic gangster in Chicago. Aware that he is still alive, the mob dispatches a hitman named Kroll (DANIEL BERNHARDT) who almost kills Parker's girlfriend, Claire (EMMA BOOTH). Parker uses a fake ID, passport, and birth certificate from master forger Norte (CARLOS CARRASCO) to travel to West Palm Beach where Melander is plotting a major jewel heist.

To avoid suspicion, Parker masquerades as a rich oilman and catches the eye of real estate agent Leslie (JENNIFER LOPEZ), a nearly bankrupt divorcee who has had to move in with her soap opera-addicted mother, Ascension (PATTI LUPONE). Leslie has the eye of a local cop, Jake (BOBBY CANNAVALE), who grows increasingly suspicious the more time Leslie spends with her wealthy client from the Lone Star State.

OUR TAKE: 4.5 out of 10
This film was not shown to reviewers until 2 hours before its public release.

Had the makers of "Parker" just gotten one crucial piece of casting right and maybe done another rewrite or three, they might have really had something here. In its present form, it's a bit of a confused movie. It doesn't quite know whether it wants to be a straight-up Jason Statham bloodbath or a quirkier, more interesting crime caper. Something really, REALLY violent happens about every two or three minutes or so in this film. Someone gets shot in the leg or knifed through the hand or elbowed in the nose. Blood splatters, swear words are exchanged, and the film moves full steam ahead to the next maiming. Par for the course for a Statham flick.

But then I'd say every, oh, seven or eight minutes, something really clever or darkly funny happens and you start to understand why Taylor Hackford, the director of "Ray" and "An Officer and a Gentleman," signed on to helm this. You see a glimpse of why this script convinced the likes of such talented actors as Michael Chiklis of "The Shield," Wendell Pierce of "Treme" and "The Wire," and Nick Nolte to co-star.

What you never understand is why is Jennifer Lopez in this?! She's sort of the female lead, although she doesn't show up for at least the first half hour. She's sort of the love interest, although the male lead is clearly in love with another character. Lopez is sort of the comic relief, although she has never really been known for her comedy timing.

Actually, she's really not any of those things. Her part is a purely supporting one here. Lopez just somehow got cast in the role and ended up confounding the rest of the movie. The role of Leslie, the struggling real estate agent who stumbles into a jewel-heist caper/revenge plot, called for an actress with much lower star wattage. Amy Poehler would have been great here. Ditto Zooey Deschanel or Anna Kendrick. The young Sandra Bullock in the "Demolition Man"-"Speed" years would have been awesome. But J.Lo? Nope. Sorry. Just doesn't work.

The film centers on the title character, a master thief who is double-crossed and left for dead by a gang of greedy cohorts following an elaborate heist at the Ohio State Fair. Parker tracks the crew, which includes Chiklis and Pierce, to West Palm Beach where they are setting up their next scheme -- to steal millions of dollars worth of jewels from an estate auction. At 90 minutes, this would have had all the makings of a lean, mean, bare-bones revenge thriller. Unfortunately, it's 28 minutes longer than that.

Statham is great as the glowering, calculating Parker able to survive leaps from speeding cars, gunshot and stab wounds to the chest, and a knife through the hand. Seriously, not since Mel Gibson put the beat down on Christ has a main character absorbed so much on-screen physical punishment and stayed on mission. But where Statham is at his best in this film are those sequences where he has to think on his feet. I loved how he was able to escape from a hospital at one point using a man with throat cancer. Several scenes later, he is able to avoid killing three goons by convincing another character to kill them for him.

Unfortunately, there is a whole middle portion of the film where the action largely stops and he and J.Lo carry on a too long and entirely unconvincing conversation that basically gives Parker one key piece of information that he could just have easily read in the Palm Beach Post and saved a good 20 to 25 minutes of screen time.

As a result, "Parker" doesn't work as a complete movie. But it's reasonably entertaining in spots to warrant a Netflix or pay-per-view rental in a few months time. No need for this flick to heist any of your movie-theater cash. I give it a 4.5 out of 10. (T. Durgin)

Reviewed January 24, 2013 / Posted January 25, 2013

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