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Parker

Year: 2013
Production Co: Incentive Filmed Entertainment
Director: Taylor Hackford
Producer: Taylor Hackford
Writer: John J McLoughlin
Cast: Jason Statham, Jennifer Lopez, Michael Chiklis, Clifton Collins Jr, Wendell Pierce, Nick Nolte

Jason Statham's always in danger of doing what Steven Seagal did when the latter made one too many generic action thrillers where he proved unbeatable no matter how many armed goons the villain set upon him. The Stath's acting range is similar to Seagal's – seesawing between a heavy lidded scowl to a heavier-lidded scowl – and even though some of his movies have had a sense of humour (such as the hospital-gown erection scene in Crank), Statham himself looks all wrong when he smiles.

It drastically cuts down the kind of roles he can inhabit comfortably, and so to really shine he needs filmmakers and co-stars who can really act and direct instead of pyrotechnicians, stunt co-ordinators and generic Eurotrash villains.

He has them here in Parker, with director Taylor Hackford and co-star Jennifer Lopez (who it's easy to forget was a good actress before she was ever celebrity gossip fodder). There's also a refreshing sense that the hero is really in danger. He's not indestructible in a fight and during a brawl with one goon in particular he even ends up with a knife through the palm of his hand for his trouble.

The set-up is nothing we haven't seen before. Parker (Statham) is part of a gang of robbers who hit the Ohio State Fair in the opening sequence to go after the entrance takings, only to have his gang betray and leave him for dead on the road out. Tracking them to Miami, Parker only wants one thing – revenge. But in another refreshing change for an action thriller, he doesn't just kick their doors in with guns blazing, but sets up an elaborate sting to hijack the next score they're working on – a lucrative jewel heist.

To do so he has to pose as a rich industrialist with garish taste (the ten gallon Stetson is as close to the hospital gown hard-on this movie gets, but it's still slightly tongue in cheek). As Parker's story progresses, we're also introduced to down-on-her luck real estate agent Leslie (Lopez), and it's not until Parker enlists her services that you understand what she's even got to do with the rest of the story, a fractured narrative slightly in the vein of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo .

When she does meet Parker Leslie smells a rat, and it's when she gets under his skin enough to make him spill the beans on what he's really doing that she suggests an alliance – the take from the job will solve both their problems.

There's a lot more going on, not all of it entirely successful, and a lot of famous faces doing it (including Nick Nolte, who's so grizzled he seems to be aging ten years for every two the rest of us are), and while the whole story is less cohesive than it needs to be, at least it's not just another straight down the line revenge shoot 'em up.

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