By Bill Wine
KYW Newsradio 1060
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — No one will ever accuse Jason Statham of having an acting range, but few are the movie stars whose name on the marquee so completely identifies the genre or the type of leading man he’ll be playing.
Take him or leave him, he sure is a known quantity: quiet, strong, inexpressive, resourceful, and deadly.
But Parker tweaks the Statham formula a tad by adding a female icon to the mix: Jennifer Lopez is the female lead.
Yep, it’s J-Sta and J-Lo, together again for the first time!
The noir-like action thriller, set in the criminal underworld and brutally violent, offers tough-as-nails Statham as the anti-heroic title character, a professional thief who, sporting a moral code in the Robin Hood mode, steals from the wealthy and punishes the guilty.
During the bungled robbing of the Ohio State Fair that opens the film, Parker is doublecrossed by his crew -– played by Michael Chiklis, Wendell Pierce, Clifton Collins Jr., and Micah A. Hauptman — who betray him, shoot him, take his share of the money, and leave him for dead.
But he survives and, seeking vengeance with a vengeance, follows them to Palm Beach, Fla. in disguise.
There, while the quartet of thieves plan an elaborate jewel heist, he enlists the help of struggling real estate agent Leslie Rogers, played by Lopez, who becomes his partner-in-crime in hope of financial reward.
Director Taylor Hackford (Ray, An Officer and a Gentleman, The Devil’s Advocate, Proof of Life), dipping into the action pool, works from a screenplay by John J. McLaughlin that’s based on the novel Flashfire by Donald E. Westlake, who featured the titular master criminal in twenty-some novels but insisted that the character’s name be changed in the several movie versions (Point Blank, The Outfit, Payback) that emerged from the series.
Veteran Hackford knows how to hold our attention during flashy set pieces, but there’s nothing in the narrative to get us rooting or even caring.
The simplistic script is so repetitious and bloated that it seems to struggle to conjure enough in the way of plot continuity to fill out to feature length.
And the lead character is a jumble of arbitrary traits and confused morality that doesn’t add up to a real person. Even a skillfully nuanced actor would have trouble selling this synthetic construct, and Statham is nothing of the sort.
What this Jason Statham flick offers that distinguishes it from previous outings (The Transporter, Crank, The Mechanic, Death Race) are the two lazy disguises that he dons while half-heartedly impersonating a priest and a tycoon.
But let’s face it: while Statham has an unmistakable muscular charm, his persona, let alone his facial expression, doesn’t vary regardless of the surface accoutrement: he is action icon Jason Statham no matter how he’s dressed.
So much for the camouflage. And wait’ll you hear his Texas drawl.
As for Lopez, she’s saddled with an extraneous, underdeveloped character -– she’s not even the romantic interest, not really -– and is obviously included as a demographic stretcher who, through no fault of her own, never becomes necessary or convincing.
Overall, there’s lots of stealing going on on-screen, but no one steals the movie while it’s busy stealing your time.
So we’ll disguise 2 stars out of 4 for a ho-hum, here-we-go-again action thriller. As Statham vehicles go, Parker barely shifts out of park.