How's this for serendipity? I finished reading FLASHFIRE, a Parker novel by Richard Stark a couple of weeks ago. I loved it and posted a very positive review of the book here on my blog. I mentioned in the post that the novel had been adapted into the film PARKER (2013) and that I would be on the lookout for it.
I was in Walmart the other day, browsing through a giant bin of Blu-Ray DVDs and what did I find? Yep, you guessed it, PARKER. I bought it and watched it yesterday.
Overall, the film was a fairly faithful adaptation of the novel. Oh, sure, things are changed a bit. There are characters in the film that weren't in the book (including an ancient looking Nick Nolte as Parker's mentor). Nolte, who would have been a not-bad choice to play Parker in a film forty years ago, has a few scenes with star Jason Statham early in the film and then disappears entirely from the rest of the movie.
Jason Statham makes a serviceable Parker. He's big, well-built and tough with rugged good looks. But he's got an accent which Parker doesn't have in the books. He's not my ideal version of Parker. That remains the great Lee Marvin, who played the Parker analogue "Walker" in John Boorman's magnificent POINT BLANK (1967). But since Marvin is long gone, Statham will fill the part nicely for the 21st century.
Jennifer Lopez is an interesting choice to play Leslie, the greedy real estate agent who becomes Parker's partner-in-crime. In the book, Leslie wasn't a Hispanic woman but Lopez does a good job bringing a deft touch of light comedy to the role and she's certainly easy on the eyes.
Parts of the film (scenes and dialogue) are lifted verbatim from the book. The heist at the beginning of the film is staged at the Ohio State Fair and is on a much larger scale than the robbery that opens the book.
Still, the screenplay follows the general gist of the novel fairly well. Characters and scenes are compressed and changed slightly to make everything more connected than it is in the book. And the violence is off the charts. There are several brutal fight scenes and gun battles but that's what we've come to expect from a modern action film.
Director Taylor Hackford does a good job of keeping things moving. PARKER is a gritty crime film that unfortunately bombed at the box office. It was released early in the year which is a traditional dumping ground for films that studios don't have much hope for. The fact that it underperformed at the box office means it's unlikely we'll see another Parker adventure with Statham in the lead. That's a pity because I'd certainly love to see another one.
If you've read FLASHFIRE, you'll enjoy watching PARKER and playing the inevitable book-to-film comparison game. As always, the book is better but if you're a fan of the series, you'll enjoy the film.