Let’s take a look at the character descriptions for Jason Statham’s last few films, shall we?
“an elite hit man”
“an elite mercenary”
“revenge-seeking confidence trickster”
“a crime syndicate’s best hit man”
“revenge-obsessed FBI agent”
“a highly-skilled mercenary ‘transporter’ ”
“lawn-mower-racing red gnome”
Alright, maybe Jason Statham does have more than one mode, but regardless the latest project he’s jumped onto, Parker, will put him in the familiar shoes of a “a thief who, though at times is forced to be a killer, still lives by a code of honor that includes never stealing money from people who need it. His word is his bond, and if he is crossed he will strike back relentlessly.”
That description is from the Variety news-break, which made me chuckle with the straight-faced “his word is his bond” which doesn’t even come from a quote. In any event, what makes yet another Statham-driven super criminal project plinko on down to the interesting side of the spectrum, is that this will be the first action/noir film from director Taylor Hackford (Ray, The Devil’s Advocate, Proof of Life). Coming off of Love Ranch, a drama starring Helen Mirren and Joe Pesci (that is apparently no good), Hackford is looking to “take a genre piece like this and turn it into a great movie.” The film has been written by John J. McLaughlin, who has a writer credit on Black Swan.
The film will be based on a book series from Donald Westlake, who before and after his death in 2008 had more than a dozen of his books and screenplays become films, consistently from the late 60s to the 00s. Some notable titles include The Hot Rock in 1972 with Robert Redford, The Busy Body in 1967, along with 1967’s Point Blank and 1999’s Payback with Lee Marvin and Mel Gibson respectively playing the same Parker character that Statham will take on. Parker was featured in two-dozen books from Westlake, but there’s no indication of what book or books the film is primarily based on.
I maintain that Statham is a fine action-lead who has consistently chosen as many interesting or challenging action roles as he has ones in standard B-movie fare. Unafraid to make fun of himself or take on less-than-refined heroes, he’s as comfortable being goofy (in more than just safe Disney-movie antics) as he is mercilessly kicking ass. If Hackford brings his full abilities to this and Statham ends up in something more prestigious and thoughtful than usual, well… that would be quite interesting. However, at minimum one hopes we’ll have another smarter-than-average thriller by the end of it. Much as I’d love to see Statham somehow at the center of a more prestige-tinted genre film, I’m skeptical that’s what will turn out. Either way, the world always needs more competent, ditch-digging action films.
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