By Joseph McAleer
Catholic News Service
NEW YORK (CNS) — It’s a safe bet that when a film opens with the lead character masquerading as a priest to rob the concessions stand of the Ohio State Fair, it’s all going to be downhill from there.
So begins "Parker" (FilmDistrict), a bloody and violent crime thriller based on "Flashfire," the 19th in the series of "Parker" novels written by Richard Stark.
As presented by veteran director Taylor Hackford ("An Officer and a Gentleman") and screenwriter John J. McLaughlin ("Black Swan"), Parker (Jason Statham) is perfectly content to be a professional thief.
While he lives by a certain code — "I don’t steal from anyone who can’t afford it, and I don’t hurt anyone who doesn’t deserve it" — Parker is no benevolent Robin Hood. He breaks the Fifth and Seventh commandments with wild abandon, and the film condones his actions.
It’s a family affair, too. Parker’s father, Hurley (Nick Nolte), arranges heists for his son, while Claire (Emma Booth), Parker’s lady love (we’re never sure if they’re married), is handy with a needle and thread to stitch him up after a knife fight.
Parker and his partners in crime, including Melander (Michael Chiklis), succeed in draining the coffers of the state fair. But Melander wants more, and Parker is ambushed, shot and left for dead.
Or so he thinks. Parker survives, and fueled by revenge (and greed) he tracks Melander and his goons to Florida, where they are planning the jewel heist of the century.
There Parker meets Leslie (Jennifer Lopez), a lonely real estate agent who dreams of a better life — which means money, obtained by any means necessary. Parker uses her to locate the safe house where Melander and his gang are hiding.
Before long, Leslie is using Parker, whom she sees as her ticket out of the middle class. In one of the film’s many gratuitous moments, Parker accepts Leslie’s help, but only after she takes off her clothes, to prove she’s not wearing a concealed microphone (she’s not).
"To get away clean, you have to play dirty," Parker tells his new partner. That means a high body count and gallons of blood before the requisite "happy" ending that is far from morally acceptable.
The film contains a benign view of stealing, considerable bloody violence including gunplay and knife fights, brief nudity, sexual innuendo, occasional profanity, and frequent rough language. The Catholic News Service classification is O — morally offensive. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R — restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.
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McAleer is a guest reviewer for Catholic News Service.