No honor among thieves? Parker would beg to differ.
In a profession that entails its share of, shall we say, moral compromises, Parker's an idealist. "We don't steal from people who can't afford it," he insists. "We don't hurt people who don't deserve it." His ethical calculus on who, exactly, can afford what and who deserves to die—well, that's a bit of a puzzle. But however he figures it, there's no doubt he believes it.
So after a cadre of fellow thieves bilks him out of $200,000—his share of a robbery caper at the Ohio State Fair—and leave him for dead, Parker takes it personally. Oh, yeah, the fact that they tried to kill him was bad enough. The fact that they reneged on a contract—well, that's just unforgivable.
These people need to follow through on what they've promised, Parker fumes. They need to make good on their debts and follow the rules. So Parker plans to teach them those rules in the strongest way possible—even if he has to break a bunch of 'em in half to do it.
Parker's code of honor is, as you might guess, rather inconsistent. But we can give him a half-hearted golf clap for at least having a code—something that the rest of his partners/adversaries in crime don't even want to muster. And some of that code seems to encompass being a pretty decent guy—at least when he's not out pilfering things.
While wandering around the fair, Parker wins a carny game and gives the stuffed animal to an appreciative little girl. When he and his cohorts break into the fair's cash room and a security guard starts to panic, Parker calmly talks him down. And when a henchmen fouls up part of the job—resulting in the loss of an innocent man's life—Parker seems seriously troubled.
He tells a minor gangster that he never, ever goes back on a promise—as he promises to break the guy's windpipe with a chair. Indeed, his word is golden, even if his deeds are dross. And when Parker scores the heist of a lifetime, he dutifully remembers everyone who helped him pull it off. To a family who kindly took him to a hospital when he was hurt on the side of the road, he gives enough cash for a new house.
That family, incidentally, is the closest thing the movie Parker has to real heroes. But audiences also see some random acts of kindness from others.
Parker masquerades as a priest during the state fair job. We hear a sincere "Praise the Lord" from Parker's roadside saviors and a declaration later that they believe Parker "was an angel, sent here to test us."
We see a topless Claire with Parker, after the two have had sex. We see her breasts. We see Parker getting dressed. We see a painting of a woman exposing her nipples. There's more breast nudity when a henchman peers into a room filled with beauty pageant contestants dressing for the swimsuit competition.
Claire and Parker make out in a shower. Parker asks real estate agent and crime-committing cohort Leslie Rogers to disrobe (in order to check her for wires, he says). She does, revealing her skimpy bra and panties. Parker ogles less than the camera does. But later, Leslie asks if he'd like to check her for wires again—suggesting that he certainly could if he wanted to. The two kiss, but Parker breaks it off, professing to want to keep their relationship strictly professional.
Some provocative double entendres are uttered. A tough touches Leslie's blouse, asking her to show her wares and telling her that he's going to rape her before he kills her.
Parker doesn't like to hurt innocent people. But those he determines are guilty? Or those who simply get in his way? He's got no problem with taking them down … hard.
He eventually rubs out everyone who cheated him. He knifes a couple of guys in the throat. (Blood seeps on the floor and stains shirts.) He shoots another dude in the head. (A spray of blood hits the wall behind.) He beats several people to bloody pulps before killing them and engages in a lengthy battle with a professional assassin. He punches, kicks and chokes him before finally smashing him in the head with a toilet tank cover. Then, when the assassin springs to life again, Parker maneuvers him over a high-rise balcony, sending him plummeting to his death. (The fall is replayed online.) He shoots another high-ranking gangster and orders someone else to gun down four people lying prone on the floor.
Parker pays a price for all this mayhem. His girlfriend patches up a gunshot wound—another scar joining his already patchworked torso and back. He has a knife driven straight through the palm of his hand. (The handle protrudes from one side, the blade from the other.) He's stabbed in the shoulder. Four of his ribs are fractured. He trails blood all over the place.
Leslie fires several bullets into the torso of a criminal; blooms of red spring up across the man's chest. A bad 'un misplaces a flare during a heist, which eventually ignites several fuel tanks and causes pandemonium. (We learn that someone died in the blast.) Parker exchanges gunfire and punches with criminals in a moving SUV, leaving all participants bloodied and bruised. Parker's the most badly injured of the bunch, springing from the speeding vehicle and rolling along the road. Another man has part of his ear ripped off by a bullet. (We see what's left, ragged and bleeding.) Parker shoots someone in the leg. (There's more blood.) Parker thwacks someone else in the leg with a fire extinguisher and nearly kills a guy with a chair.
Crude or Profane Language
About 75 f-words and nearly a dozen s-words. Also, "a‑‑," "b‑‑ch," "h‑‑‑" and some crude words referencing bits of the male anatomy. Jesus' name is abused nine or 10 times, and God's is misused more than 15—including four or five times with "d‑‑n."
Drug and Alcohol Content
Characters drink beer and wine. Leslie seems particularly fond of the stuff, confessing that she drinks too much. Someone smokes. Parker injects himself with Demerol, a painkiller.
Other Negative Elements
I did already mention that this entire movie is pinned to the notion that stealing's an A-OK activity if it's done the right way and to the right people? "There's nothing wrong with a little stealing now and then," Leslie explains to a co-worker. "They [the more fortunate] do it to us all the time."
Leslie's mother participates in a weekly poker game.
"Civilized people need to follow rules," Parker says. "I'm just trying to put things right."
Parker is kinda sorta on the right track, you have to admit. Civilized people do need to follow rules. And 10 ancient commandments provide a good place to start … which brings us to the ones Parker needs to learn a bit better: those that say we shouldn't steal or kill or covet. Those commandments, after all, have indisputably been bedrocks of Western civilization itself. And since Parker's all about helping civilized people stay civilized, it seems fitting that he brush up on 'em.
Parker, based on a character created by novelist Richard Stark in the 1960s and subsequently translated into several other Hollywood films, doesn't concern itself with such "pedantic" truths, of course. The film is envy-powered wish fulfillment, designed to tickle an emotional sense of "justice," not a literal one. Why do those fat cats in Palm Beach get to live in multimillion-dollar mansions while I'm stuck in this condo? the movie asks through Leslie, its proxy for the Everywoman. Why do they get Bentleys when my little Toyota's being repossessed?
That turns Parker into a modern Robin Hood tale … with this difference: Instead of taking from the rich to give to the poor, its protagonist takes from the rich, singlehandedly creates some newly rich folks and then kills everybody else.
Other Belief Systems
Readability Age Range
Drama, Action/Adventure, Mystery/Suspense, Comedy
Jason Statham as Parker; Jennifer Lopez as Leslie Rodgers; Michael Chiklis as Melander; Wendell Pierce as Carlson; Clifton Collins Jr. as Ross; Bobby Cannavale as Jake Fernandez; Patti LuPone as Ascension; Carlos Carrasco as Norte; Emma Booth as Claire; Nick Nolte as Hurley
Taylor Hackford (Ray)
January 25, 2013
Paul Asay Paul Asay