Monday, July 15, 2013

Movie Review : Parker (2013)


There aren't that many sacred monsters of hardboiled fiction.That kind of goes against the concept. I wouldn't even qualify Raymond Chandler's legendary private eye Philip Marlowe of a sacred monster, because his popularity has transcended the interest of genre fans. Richard Stark's Parker might me one of the only ones. Everybody loves Parker, so when it was announced that British action-hero Jason Statham would play him on the silver screen, nobody went to see it. I literally know of no preexisting Parker fans who have seen the movie and their reasons are perfectly understandable. But PARKER isn't a bad movie. It's not a glorious tribute to the world's most badass thief, but I have paid thirteen dollars for worse movies. As a late Sunday rental, it got the job done quite well.

The movie is based on the novel FLASHFIRE (published in 2000), which I haven't read. Parker is working with an independent grow in the American Midwest on a high-profile robbery. After its flawless execution (duh! they had obviously hired the right man), the crew's thinking head, a man named Melander (awesomely portrayed by Michael Chiklis) offers to cut Parker in on a way bigger score. Only problem is that he needs every dollar from the current one to finance the job. There aren't a lot of ways it can go when someone refuses to collaborate in this business, so Melander gets his lackey Hardwicke (Micah A. Hauptmann) to execute Parker and they leave him for dead on the side of the road. But you can't shoot Parker like this. He's been there before and he kind of takes it personal.

So forget that Jason Statham is playing Parker for a second. I'm aware it's an aberration, but several things about this movie are, execution-wise. PARKER, the movie, has one important thing going for itself: director Taylor Hackford (THE DEVIL'S ADVOCATE, PROOF OF LIFE) is obviously a Parker fan and included all the details that made Richard Stark's novel so much fun to read. For example, nobody ever dumb for the sake of the story in Stark's universe. Everybody is tough, street-smart and knows basic survival rules. For example, Claire (played by Emma Booth, they included Claire. That's cool to me right there.) is being chased by a hired killer and instead of panicking and getting herself kidnapped like any other dumb broads in Hollywood, she jumps out the window, slashed the man's tires with her switchblade and drives away. That detail screamed "Stark" to me and that authenticity made the movie enjoyable alone.

...and that face screams "B-movie criminal" to me.

That said, just about everybody outside of Michael Chiklis and Micah A. Hauptmann are a miscast in PARKER, but sometimes it's awesome. Like, there are no valid reasons why Jennifer Lopez was hired to play Leslie. She's pretty bad and the character doesn't get any action from Parker, because he is infatuated with Claire, who is portrayed by the considerably less attractive Booth. Personally, I always pictured Claire to be the Emily Blunt type. She has a womanly charisma that could at least manage to make a man think twice about missing out on bedding Jennifer Lopez and unlike Jason Statham, she can suppress her British accent for the needs of a movie. Honestly, I don't know who could have played Parker better than Mel Gibson did in 1999. Maybe Bradley Cooper, if he could suppress that stupid, perpetual smirk of his. So yeah, the movie is truffled with miscasts, but there are happy accidents. It ranges from bad to hilarious.

I've spoken several times before against Hollywood's obsession over staying loyal to original material and not angering the geeks. PARKER shows that you can include variables without doing a line-by-line Derp-Snyder adaptation. Taylor Hackford adapted what was enjoyable about the Stark novels and crafted something half-original around the rest. The movie slows down considerably and suffers from a mushy middle once Hackford runs out of  "Starkian variables" but redeems itself with its fun, very hardboiled finale. If you don't know who Parker is, you're going to get one of the savviest gangster movies you've seen since the old Elmore Leonard adaptations and if you're a reader, it may turn you to the novels. If like me, you are aware of Parker's half-century of awesome, you're going to get a kick out of this movie. It's probably not going on a your personal shelf anytime soon, but you'll walk away smiling. Despite it's many shortcomings, PARKER is ultimately successful as a movie and as an adaptation both.

8 comments:

  1. Ben, to understand your review better clarify please one thing: how big a Parker fan you are? It's critical here.
    I watched Parker a month ago and liked it (with reservations). Actually it was the first Parker movie I watched to the end. It's obvious the books are much betetr, but this one was not so bad. I liked the director's style.
    I don't agree that Lopez was a miscast (Statham was). She's very good here, along with Bunk, off course.

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  3. I haven't seen it yet, but I'm not surprised it didn't do very well at the theatre.

    I never understood why, if they were hoping to start a Parker franchise, they started with a book so late in the series like Flashfire. I always thought the books that marked Parker's return (Comeback in 1997, I think?) were the weakest of the bunch. Besides, that Parker gets left for dead... again, this always felt like such a rehash to me, and I've read the books, that I'm sure people who hadn't just shrugged and went to see something else.

    And Jennifer Lopez? Who thought her casting was a good idea? I mean, that seriously.

    To me, the only way to do Parker justice would be as a cable series set in the same period the books are written in. Think Mad Men but only about criminals. Then line up multiple actors to play Parker so you can have him change his face with plastic surgery. You need that period setting, I think. Otherwise, you loose part of the appeal of Parker. The planning and the execution loses something once you hit the more modern era and it's all computers and motion sensors. Plus, there's that ability to just disappear. You can't do that now. You can't just go pay someone a couple bucks and go live in another town under another name with no one the wiser.

    Oh, man, and period? Period is the only way you could ever adapt The Score, the one where they rob the entire town. That's Parker to me...Hell, with the system, I'm gonna rob a whole damn town.

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  4. Ray: if you could qualify my knowledge of Parker, I'd say maybe I'm an orange belt, but I like the character a lot. I think he is badass done well. I think we've had a similar opinion of the movie. I do think Lopez was a miscast though. She is way too posh and graceful to play the sidekick lady, but I had a kick out of seeing her turned down by a man.

    Chad: I didn't think about a cable series, man but it makes an awful lot of sense to me. There is way too much material to make it a convincing film and yet it would actually be a good replacement to Breaking Bad once the series is over.

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  5. A period series is the only successful way to pull it off, I think. You need that sweep of events. And then you can do really fun things like end one season with the plot of The Handle, then start the next by adapting The Damsel when Stark focuses on a wounded Grofield.

    A series too is the only successful way to deal with Claire. I think she’s one of those characters you either love or hate (like Susan in The Spenser books—for the record I can’t stand Susan, but generally like or don’t mind Claire). You need to see women not really mattering to Parker at all after The Hunter (think you could make an argument that even his wife doesn't matter beyond her betrayal), then boom there’s Claire. And she sticks around and Parker does mind and he wants her too. That’s how you give her punch.

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  6. The thing about Parker is he is not a charming man. He's very direct and has no manners, which isn't what Hollywood goes for. Lee Marvin is my favourite version.

    mood

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  7. I understand what you mean, Mood but I disagree to some extent. I think he is not a seducing man, but he has manners and a certain charm. But he doesn't care about seducing people. He doesn't care much about people in fact...But I do think he has strong form of charisma.

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  8. I think it's more of an anti-charm. He so doesn't give a fuck it makes him seem cool and attracts people.

    A good example of how he thinks is when someone offers him a drink — he never wants to accept but he does, not to be polite but because he's learned that it's quicker to let people go through the motions they're used to. Same with chit chat.

    Otherwise he doesn't speak unless it's to ask a question or give an order.

    And he lies on top of his bed fully clothed with the lights out, awake; even if there's someone else in the room.

    mood

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