Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Parker [2013]

MPAA (R)  CNS/USCCB (O)  Chicago Sun Times (1 1/2 Stars)  AV Club (C+)  Fr. Dennis (1 Star)

IMDb listing
CNS/USCCB (J. McAleer) review
Chicago Sun-Times (P. Sobczynski) review
AV Club (J. Modell) review

Parker (directed by Taylor Hackford, screenplay by John. J. McLaughlin based on the character by the same name from Donald E. Westlake's crime novels) is another of several rather poorly produced films that were released this past weekend.

The story in this film centers on Parker [IMDb] (played by Jason Statham) who is conceived in Westlake's novels as a "criminal with a code."  Indeed, he first appears on the screen in this film dressed as a Catholic priest (even as he leads a raid on the central bank at the Ohio State Fair...) telling the money counters there (even as he asks them to lie down on the floor while his cohorts tie their hands behind their backs...) that "I don't steal from anyone who can't afford it, and I don't hurt anyone who doesn't deserve it."  

No doubt the hope is that movie goers see in Parker a modern-day Robin Hood [IMDb].  That Parker be  introduced in the film in this way -- dressed as a Catholic priest -- is, of course, rather jarring (to be kind) or appalling (to call it for what most, especially older, Catholics watching the film would see it as).  One of course remembers that Friar Tuck [IMDb] was a member of Robin Hood's "Merry Men."  One even remembers that the recent film For Greater Glory [2012] portrays a gun-toting (and arguably mass murdering...) Catholic priest as a "hero" (one who led a raid that blew-up a train killing several hundred innocent passengers ... But apparently his cause was deemed by the film-makers to be "good" so it was "okay" while priests merely suspected of sympathizing with left-wing guerrillas fighting appalling social and economic inequalities in Latin America during the 1980s were routinely investigated by the Vatican and often defrocked...).  Finally, one remembers that during the infamous crime wave that hit the United States in the early 1930s during the early years of the Great Depression, many common people, including many common Catholics considered bank-robbers like John Dillinger and Bonnie and Clyde to be Robin Hood like heroes as well.  All this said, however, the film makers here have chosen to make their product so needlessly bloody/violent that it's honestly difficult find any sympathy for Parker or whatever "code" that he chose "to live by."

And beyond the blood and the gore of this film of which there is plenty (Parents take note that this film features definitely an R-rated bloodbath of violence, which in the context of the recent real-life massacres in Aurora, CO and Newtown, CT has become all the more difficult to watch), critical aspects of the film appear to have been left on the "cutting room" (editor's) floor.  For instance, the primary usefulness to Parker of the "Palm Beach, FL real estate agent" Leslie Rogers (played by Jennifer Lopez) was that she could help him escape Palm Beach island after a second, climactic heist near the end of the film, without detection.  She had told Parker, in effect, "The people of Palm Beach are smart, they all know each other, they are all well connected with the local authorities and you won't know how to get off their island (after your heist) without someone like me."  Yet, after the heist and the police as a matter of course lift all the draw bridges leading from the island, we're _not_ shown how the two get off the island effectively reducing Lopez' character in the film to simply eye candy.  And frankly both Lopez and the audience deserved better.

So between the blood and the poor execution of the film one's left with a really disappointing product which given the allusions to past folklore and history mentioned above could have been far more intriguing than the film turned out to be. 

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