|Jason Statham as Parker|
Back in the sixties author Donald Westlake (writing as Richard Stark) wrote a whole series of novels starring ruthless career criminal, Parker. The series stopped, and Parker disappeared for quite a few years, until he came back in, eh, "Comeback." Two books later there was "Flashfire," of which Parker is an adaptation. Parker is not a total sociopath -- he doesn't blow away his partners-in-crime so he can steal their share of the take -- and he doesn't kill unless he absolutely has to. Still ... The Parker novels are well-written and entertaining -- "Flashfire" is one of the best -- but there are critics who badly overrate them. One critic suggested that the Parker novels are "not just masterpieces of the genre, but masterpieces period." Well -- the books are fun but you sort of forget them the minute you're through, and it's hard to think a novel is a "masterpiece" when it has so little resonance. I think this is an example of fans over-praising something that they pretty much know is pure pop culture and a guilty pleasure.
As for Parker, Jason Statham, who has appeared in many movies that wouldn't especially interest me, makes a perfect lead but for the fact of his English accent (Parker is very, very American). There have been some changes from the novel, but for the most part it sticks to the main story. Parker feels he has been cheated out of his share of a robbery, and takes after the other men, who are now planning a big heist in tony Palm Beach. He is aided by a realtor named Leslie (Jennifer Lopez of Gigli), who lives with her mother (Patti Lupone) and hates her life. Michael Chiklis [Fantastic Four] is vivid as the head of the gang that Parker's after; Bobby Cannavale has a couple of brief scenes as a cop who likes Leslie; and Nick Nolte, playing a character who is not in the novel, sounds like Daffy Duck and looks like the wreck of the Hesperus. Emma Booth plays Claire, Nolte's daughter, who appears in the Parker novels but doesn't have much to do in this installment. The best scene details a vicious hotel room fight between Parker and a hit man.
Parker doesn't seem to have gotten much publicity. Other films made from Parker novels include The Split, The Outfit, and Point Blank. The best of these is The Split.
Verdict: Holds the attention but nothing special. The book is better. **1/2.