“Well, I gave Jennifer a call. I said, ‘I have a great role for you in a film called, “Parker.” ’ So she knew she didn’t have the lead!”
That was director Taylor Hackford at the Museum of Modern Art last week, speaking prior to the screening of his new film “Parker.” It’s true that Miss Jennifer Lopez is not exactly the lead in this action flick, but she has plenty to do. As for acting choice, Lopez made the right one, I think.
“Parker” stars Jason Statham and is based on the many thrillers featuring this deadly hero, written by the late Donald E. Westlake, (under the name Richard Stark.) This is not the first movie to star Parker, but it is the first to use the character’s name in its title. In the books, he is never given a full name – just “Parker.”
Mr. Westlake’s widow, Abby, was among the MOMA audience that braved subzero temperatures to enjoy the fast-paced violence and wry one-liners spat out by Statham and others. (If the film is successful, there is a franchise in the making.)
Hackford – who just happens to be married to the divine actress and star Helen Mirren – said that his latest movie is “an unapologetic gangster/action/thriller. And I love those films!” He surely must. This is the slam-bang epitome of the genre. And it is the kind of movie for which former martial arts trainer/swimmer/model Statham has become famous. He is grim, deadly and forever sporting a three-day stubble.
Aside from Jason and Jennifer, “Parker” also features, Bobby Cannavale, Michael Chiklis, Nick Nolte, newcomers Emma Booth and Micah A. Hauptman and – playing Jennifer’s hilarious mother – the Broadway star, Patti LuPone. Director Hackford described Patti as “The diva of divas. Not because she was difficult, but because of her talent.” LuPone took a glamorous bow from the audience, wearing chic black, swathed in beige fur, matching her beige spike heels. (Jason and Jennifer appeared briefly near the podium, where Hackford was speaking. They both looked like real glittery movie stars.)
“Parker” opened Friday. The reviews are out now. Most were far from kind.
I can’t predict the box office, but let me assure you, the screening audience was vociferous in its approval. Lots of laughs, lots of gasps, plenty of applause and quite a bit of cringing, at the violence – it’s unashamedly gory.
It was Lopez who received the most approving reaction. She plays a frustrated, debt-ridden divorcee, looking for a way out of her dead-end life. I’m not giving anything away, but let me assure you; don’t mess with a frustrated, debt-ridden divorcee. You will regret it.
As for Statham, he’s hot and taciturn. He’s always hot and taciturn. He does hot and taciturn very well. But, maybe he might try something a little different. He doesn’t have to co-star with children or animals – he doesn’t have to be lovable. But a slight variation could be refreshing. Not to mention a clean-shaven kisser.
“Parker” the movie, looks good. It’s not exactly original, but how many thrillers are? Lots of revenge here, betrayal and the odd “principles” of criminals. I will say the plot is far more understandable than many movies of this sort, including many in which Mr. Statham has appeared.
“Parker” is no masterpiece, but I’d still rather watch Jason Statham implausibly defeat his enemies, suffering a horribly punctured hand and four broken ribs, than suffer through the super-close-up, overwrought agonies of “Les Misérables.”
Tribune Media Services