Simon Pitt |
Wednesday 22nd May
I had a craving to watch Jason Statham punch some things the other day. Luckily, this is a craving that's easily fulfilled. As long as you stay away from Gnomeo and Juliet, almost every Jason Statham film features him punching things or people.
I picked Parker, partly at random and partly because it sounds like it's named after Lady Penelope's cockney chauffeur from the television series Thunderbirds. And the Gerry Anderson connections don't end there. In the film, Jason Statham appears to play Father Stanley Unwin from The Secret Service. Only a bizarrely aggressive Father Stanley Unwin. And Statham's acting is slightly more wooden.
In typical Statham affair Parker Unwin is wronged after a job, and sets out with single minded determination to put things right. Single minded is the right phrase. Perhaps more than any other Statham film, his character seems to have something psychologically wrong with him. Think The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime, but with guns and punching.
Parker clearly doesn't fully understand normal humans. "If you say you're going to do something, you have to do it," he whines, before setting out on a mission to kill everyone he sees. Even after the villains offer to give him the money they owe him he refuses because "it's the principle".
Parker makes some dubious choices throughout the film. At one point, a villain tries to stab him. They struggle and the knife slowly inches towards Parker. Eventually he manages to free his other hand and, rather than using it to grapple with the knife, he puts it in front of the knife, which ploughs through it. It's a gratuitously graphic scene, one of those scenes that actually makes you flinch. But the big problem with it, is that it was a really poor decision. Why put your spare hand in front of the knife? Why not use it to grapple the knife hand, or push it away?
Making bad decisions in the heat of the moment seems to be Parker's forte. Early on in the film, after fighting in a car, he jumps out of the window while travelling at about 70 mph down a motorway. I was going to describe the scene as comically ridiculous, but the next day I was walking past a newsagent's which was filled with newspapers covering this scoop.
Maybe George Michael had just seen Parker too. Or maybe it's just a more common event than I'd realised, and I'm the only person who hasn't jumped out of a car on a motorway. If that's the case it's balanced by the scene when Parker is so injured that he is taken to hospital. Parker doesn't seem to have medical insurance and refuses to have treatment, so escapes from the hospital and steals a nearby ambulance. Luckily, inside it has a drip, and as we all know, if you put yourself on a drip, any physical injuries you have sustained from, say, a car accident, disappear. I wish they taught you that on the First Aid at Work course.
I would say all of this gives away the plot, but in fact, I could have written all of this from the trailer. Like many films these days, the trailer for Parker is a potted summary of the film, including twists, and most of the characterisation. The only thing it misses out is an interminably dull section in the middle of the film when Jennifer Lopez shows him round a series of houses in Palm Beach, discussing, at length, their retail value. The only break from this is shots of Lopez back in the office discussing commission rates with her colleagues.
There are a few funny (although usually crude moments), such as when Lopez buys a cup of coffee and a man in the store says to her: "Hey, you have a cupholder in your car, or you just keep that between your legs? "
Lopez quips back, "Well, it's large and black, Jake. Where do you think I like it?"
It's a funny line, until you realise that his set up makes almost no sense. What sort of car doesn't have a cup holder in it these days? And other than being a set up for her come back, what was he expecting her to say? "No, I don't have a cupholder."
The problem really is that although Lopez is fun to watch, her character is unnecessary. Whole sections of the plot make no sense. Statham breaks into the enemies' house and hides two guns in it. Why? Presumably he has some plan involving getting them later on and killing them, but we never see that, so it seems pointless. As always, the villains' plan is needless complex. But more than that, it is portrayed inconsistently. We hear several times that they need to buy a house. We see the detail about this too (there's the whole estate agent section, remember. This is not a film for people who don't like Real Estate). Then, later on, the villains magically have a fire engine too. As far as I know, getting hold of houses is quite easy. Working fire engines, on the other hand, are rather harder to find.
Parker is a disappointing film. If you don't like watching Jason Statham punch things, you're not going to enjoy this. But if you do want to see his fists in action, you're going to be disappointed too as there just isn't enough action. It's sloppily constructed, with more padding than plot, and most of the fight scenes are too graphic to even be fun.
If you want to see Parker in action, you're better off with the cockney fellah.