Review: Parker

Jason Statham in and as Parker
Jason Statham in and as Parker

Who Am I?

Rating: *

In the midst of a crucial action sequence, Parker (played by the ever monotonous Jason Statham) stops for a moment and adjusts his suit. Taking a cue from Skyfall, Taylor Hackford has his titular protagonist jumping into the middle of action wherever it happens – on a long highway, or even in a sky rise condo. While most scenes fall bland, there’s a well-executed heist at the Ohio State Fair.

But, the rest of the film is like a chapter out of Revenge Story Writing 101. You have a setup, then there’s the ambush, and then the famous dialogue spoken by any person who has survived the ambush “I’m gonna find ’em and I’m gonna kill ’em.” It’s a shame that Parker falls prey to the incessant cliches.

The film runs dry till Jennifer Lopez shows up as the neurotic real-estate agent, Leslie Rodgers. Lopez known for not trying too hard as an actor, is actually a godsend. The role, being written out of a bar napkin, is empty, allowing the singer to milk on her character’s neurotic background to create unexpected laughs. Time and again, you may think how does an underpaid real-estate agent who’s living with her mom, get to wear flashy clothes, but that’s just how Hollywood works.

The whole movie plays like clockwork. We’re informed that Parker has a girlfriend, Claire, who is shown in small, thirty-second scenes where she’s either in the shower with him, or is escaping hitmen, or she’s on the phone, wetting her eyes out. Right when you see a connect between Parker and Leslie, Claire shows up, breaking poor Leslie’s heart.

And like every girl who has to give up, Leslie offers to help Parker which sets up the film’s climactic sequence. There are talented actors in Parker, but they are reduced to mere stand-ins. Nick Nolte plays Parker’s mentor, while Bobby Canavale, who after a memorable role as Gyp Rosetti in Boardwalk Empire, plays a cop with no role.

Jason Statham has built a career full of one man army films. And while some of them (Transporter and Redemption) are notable, the rest just don’t help at all. The film is based on Flashfire, the 19th novel in John J. McLaughlin’s Parker series. Well, unless they go for a well-written reboot, I don’t see a successful franchise.

Review: The Expendables

Stallone, Li, Couture, Crews and Statham in The Expendables

Crack! Bam! Pow! You’re dead buster!

The Expendables (R)

Director: Sylvester Stallone

Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Eric Roberts, Steve Austin, Randy Couture, Terry Crews, Dolph Lundgren, Gisele Itié, Charisma Carpenter and Mickey Rourke

Rating: ***

The Expendables can be well defined as a gruesome action film. It has the necessary blood, bones and deaths to make it one of the best action films in recent times. However, the recycled story is a letdown. We’ve seen The A-Team, The Losers and now The Expendables. Although the former two are different from the latter in terms of plot, it’s the ensemble action entertainer tagline which makes them fly under the same sky. The Expendables much like the other two films, is a pseudonym for a group of mercenaries who do things, the government cannot. Leading them is Barney Ross (Stallone), who seems to teach his fellow actors like Statham and Li, a few lessons in manly action, like beheading a soldier with a huge knife, or how to create a blood waterfall by stabbing another soldier below the throat. The pity is that I was reminded of Antony Minghella’s The English Patient, where Ralph Fiennes makes a reference to that part of the body.

Stallone can be described as a director who gives everyone their own space but doesn’t allow them to encroach in his. Statham has his own action piece in the basketball court. Li and Lundgren fight it out in a warehouse. Couture and Austin, two professional wrestlers, fight it out while trapped in a ring of fire. If Stallone and Lundgren fought, it could have been a classy Rocky IV revival. However, Stallone fights less and shoots more. The typical gunslinger isn’t he. As John Rambo, he blew up a sporting goods store with an M60, as Barney Ross, he blows up bodies into red sausages. There is often place for humor and drama in action sagas, and in The Expendables, it is Mickey Rourke who helms the hat for projecting uncanny humor and tearless drama. Why oh why was a dramatic sequence included in this kill, kill, kill film? Rourke recounts his Bosnian War experience, holding tears in his eyes, and playing it easy for Stallone to get back on track. Rourke also provides humor in that humor-intended scene where he talks about tattooing a Charlotte’s Web on Statham’s head.

Gisele Itié tries to impress us with her native looks, but, lacks the charm. I’d consider that as a bad casting call. Charisma Carpenter, at the same time, underplays in her two-scene appearance as Statham’s unsteady girlfriend. Stallone is a gifted writer who makes big impacts out of small issues. Rocky and First Blood were created in such a manner. In this film, the opening action piece takes Somali Pirates as the victims of bloodshed.

Between kinetic displays of knife-throwing, Statham excels by showing mischievous humor. He introduces himself and Barney as Buda and Pest. There are also many references made in the film, which reflect one’s character. In the scene where the three eternal action heroes of the 80s come together, Schwarzenegger hands over the mission to Stallone saying “He likes to spend time in the jungle.” Lundgren sarcastically calls Li “Happy Feet” due to his short stature. The funniest reference comes when Stallone mentions to Willis about Schwarzenegger’s attitude “He wants to be president.”

Fuelled with action, The Expendables is an old school action reverie. For me, it felt like going to a restaurant I frequented during my childhood, only to find that the it wasn’t the same again. However, Stallone serves a dessert in the form of a closing sequence where the action heroes ride off in their respective bikes and choppers as Thin Lizzy’s The Boys are Back in Town plays in the background. Well, let’s just hope for a better sequel.