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Parker

Give credit to Jason Statham for this much — he knows how to play to his strengths.

Whether it’s in three Transporter films, two Crank installments or more than a dozen other films, he seems to play variations on the same scruffy tough-guy character.

The latest role for the prolific British action star is another turn as a martial arts specialist who faces off with countless bad guys in Parker, a stylish but predictable cat-and-mouse potboiler about brutal dishonor among thieves.

Statham plays the title role, a morally challenged thief who decides to part ways with his henchmen after a failed robbery at the Ohio State Fair leaves innocent bystanders dead. His disgruntled gang, however, leaves Parker for dead after shooting him on the side of a highway.

After recovering from his wounds, Parker vows revenge and tracks down the double-crossers during their latest heist in Florida, where he finds an unlikely ally in a real-estate agent (Jennifer Lopez) who helps him disguise his identity while he prepares for an inevitable final showdown.

The film is directed by veteran Taylor Hackford (Ray) from a script by John McLaughlin (Black Swan), who adapted a novel by Donald Westlake (The Grifters). All of them have done better work elsewhere.

The film includes some crisp visuals — especially during an extended opening sequence set at the aforementioned fairgrounds — and moments of mild suspense, but really the only reason to see Parker is the usual assortment of action sequences from Statham.

Whether using martial arts or weaponry, he consistently kicks tail and comes off as so close to indestructible that a video-game icon in the corner of the screen would be appropriate. The impressive collection of ultraviolent shootouts and creatively choreographed fight scenes generally serve their purpose, which is to distract from an uninspired revenge story in which the twists become gradually more outrageous.

Unfortunately, Lopez is wasted in a helpless sultry sidekick role. Michael Chiklis (playing the chief villain) and Nick Nolte (playing Parker’s mentor of sorts) are among those whose supporting roles lack dimension.

Parker is a star vehicle, first and foremost, that Statham’s fans will appreciate more than anyone seeking more than surface thrills.

 

Rated R, 118 minutes.

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