To date, nobody’s hit the Parker nail quite on the head. The Brian Helgeland director’s cut “Payback – Straight Up” is probably the closest in tone (see it if you haven’t. It’s one lean, mean piece of cinema). I think a perfect Parker film is unlikely, but to my mind a solid recipe would be either “The Seventh”, “Firebreak” or “Breakout”, directed by Nicolas Winding Refn, starring Josh Brolin. I always appreciated that Stark/Westlake allowed film adaptations, but never allowed any film to use the Parker name because nobody got the character right and didn’t intend to make a series.
So, when I saw that this new “Parker” picture was on its way, clearly based on “Flashfire”, my hackles went up right away. How could the Westlake estate allow this? The man’s not alive to approve it, so the Parker name should stay retired (except for Darwyn Cooke’s excellent graphic novellizations, which do Parker right and had the author’s blessing before he passed). Even worse, Jason Statham says right in the trailer: “I don’t steal from people who can’t afford it, and I don’t hurt people who don’t deserve it.” That’s not Parker. Parker doesn’t care about people. Okay, to be fair, he probably wouldn’t steal from people who can’t afford it, because they wouldn’t have enough money for it to be worth his time to steal. And he was always careful to avoid killing during a heist if at all possible, but not because he had any respect for human life. No, it was only because the law looks harder for a killer than for a thief. So that one line in the trailer just smacked of a moralist streak so alien to the character that I was primed to cry foul.
The casting of Jason Statham gave me pause as well, but only slightly. I am a Statham fan, no question. The man has charisma for days, and it is never, ever not fun to watch him kick the crap out of people. I also think he’s a damn funny guy and his comic talents are woefully underused, but that’s neither here nor there, as that’s not the talent he should use as Parker. My only hang-up with his involvement was the genuine skill as a martial artist he’s displayed in past action films. I assumed that would be brought into play here, and that’s not Parker either. Parker doesn’t win in a fight because he’s a trained martial artist — he wins because he is a strong man with a keen eye for weaknesses and absolutely no scruples.