PARKER (Taylor Hackford). 118 minutes. Opens Friday (January 25). For venues and times, see listings. Rating: NN
Parker's opening heist, which sees a cast of crooks dressed as circus clowns, is a tipoff: the film's a bit of a joke. As the titular tough guy, Jason Statham inherits a mantle previously worn by heavies like Lee Marvin and Robert Duvall, who played versions of novelist Donald Westlake's hard-ass thief. It's an uncomfortable fit.
In the mould of most Parker stories, Statham's career criminal is betrayed by comrades and out for revenge. Statham's no Lee Marvin, but his ample charms are squandered on a goofy script. While the Parker of the novels and many previous films bucked personal attachments, here he pals around with a mentor (Nick Nolte), a girlfriend (Emma Booth) and a high-strung realtor (Jennifer Lopez) while still spouting his lone wolf philosophy.
Parker's action scenes - including a high-tension hospital escape and a hotel knife fight - are pretty thrilling. But elsewhere director Taylor Hackford desperately tries to court a broader audience.
The subplot involving Lopez's struggling, almost-40 professional seems like an obvious bid to sell a macho actioner as a date movie. The weird swings in tone derail Parker's rougher virtues, further condemning Statham to the role of action cinema second fiddle.