The new Jason Statham film “Parker” plays like the bloodiest promotional video ever made for Palm Beach tourism. Stabbings, explosions and furniture-smashing brawls occur at some of the ritziest (and name-checked) locations within the sun-splashed, pastel-soaked slab of Florida opulence. It kinda gives a whole new meaning to the idea of The Breakers.
The city is the setting for an elaborate, $50 million jewel heist as well as some revenge doled out with Statham’s usual machine-like efficiency. As the title character, the anti-hero of many of the novels by Richard Stark (the pseudonym of the late Donald E. Westlake), Statham is stepping into a well-known persona. But he’s not exactly pushing himself outside his comfort zone; he’s on auto-pilot here, despite the obvious physical demands of the part. Parker is the kind of thief who lives by a civilized, self-imposed code — one he expects others to adhere to, as well. But this is the same character Statham always plays: quietly cool, dryly British, powerfully lethal.
Director Taylor Hackford’s rather perfunctory action film is actually more compelling before it even gets to Palm Beach, as Parker makes his way from Ohio to New Orleans before reaching his final destination. This is where the character’s resourcefulness comes in handy, as he goes from one stolen car and one cheap motel room to the next, navigating sundry lowlifes in between. Parker has been double-crossed by his partners (including Michael Chiklis and Wendell Pierce) on a daring robbery of the Ohio State Fair. Although these guys have serious mob connections, he seeks his revenge by tailing them to their next job: hitting the auction of some major jewels that belonged to a late Palm Beach society maven.
Jennifer Lopez co-stars as local real estate agent Leslie Rodgers, who’s been struggling financially and emotionally since her divorce. When Parker pretends to be a rich Texan looking for a vacation home (complete with a big ol’ cowboy hat and an obviously fake drawl), Leslie shows him around and hopes for a hefty commission. But once she starts snooping into her intriguing new client’s background, she learns too much and wants a piece of the action.
Lopez gets a couple of amusing lines, and theoretically is here to provide some comic relief as the wide-eyed fish out of water. (An underused Patti LuPone classes things up a bit as her sassy Latina mama.) But playing weak and girlish isn’t exactly Lopez’s strong suit, and she never functions as a potential romantic interest for Parker because it’s been well-established that he’s in love with Claire (Emma Booth), the daughter of his grizzled mentor (Nick Nolte).
So basically, we’re just here to ogle J.Lo’s world-famous derriere as she turns around slowly in a polka-dotted bra and panty set. It is also a popular tourist destination.