|Yeah, 'cause a big cowboy hat is the perfect way to disguise|
you're a granite-faced, unshaven cockney ass-kicker....
"How do you sleep at night?"
"I don't drink coffee after 7."
1) While I am relieved that Taylor Hackford didn't try to go the comedy route like the last director did with Westlake's prose, there is a fundamental--albeit not a fatal--flaw in the film, and that's the casting of Jason Statham as Parker. There are moments where Parker is required to blend in and become more or less invisible amongst the background, and while Statham is able to do so more or less well in the opening heist, his main disguise gig--complete with garish cowboy boots and a white ten gallon hat--fails completely...and having Jennifer Lopez' Leslie call him on it doesn't forgive that everyone else doesn't.
2) On the other hand, the four thieves who Parker has a vendetta against do blend into the background--to the point where they're more or less cyphers. It doesn't help that most of them go unnamed for long stretches of time; I didn't know the one I referred to as 'Beardy Guy' was called Ross until after his storyline was over. Even Michael Chiklas' Melander (who I spent the bulk of the film referring to as 'Michael Chiklas' in my head) seems one dimensional and ill-formed. The one villain who comes off the best is Michael Hauptmann's weasely and incompetent Hardwicke, who not only helps define Parker's code of ethics, but also provides him with the impetuous and motivation to seek revenge.
3) I like the use of Nick Nolte as Parker's former partner and father-in-law...precisely because I could see Nolte back in the 80's being cast as Parker in an adaptation made at that time.
|Cross this priest, and you're likely to be damned...|
4) And then we have Jennifer Lopez, who apparently remembered she had acting talent on the way to the movie set. She does the amazing thing of being the comic relief while also being a) integral to the film, and b) being an actual living, breathing human being that we have sympathy for. Lopez' Leslie actually takes the burden of being the sympathetic character off of Parker, giving him free reign to be the ruthless and relentless protagonist we want to see.
5) I do very much appreciate the fact that Statham's Parker is not invulnerable....he gets hurt. Hell, he gets hurt very, very badly. And Hackford is unblinking in showing how grotesque the aftermath of these fights are. The only problem I have with this is how Parker doesn't seem all that immobilized by his busted ribs and stabbed hand during the fight scenes in the climatic sequence.
6) I also appreciate that Hackford shoots his action scenes by locking down the camera and letting his actors actually fight. It makes the fights seem more brutal and, more importantly, clearly seen. I am hoping that this and Skyfall (link!) indicate the end of the 'shakey-cam' school of action filmmaking.
7) You know who else surprised me as a character? Patti Lupone, who played Leslie's mother, plays it originally like a cartoon monster...but as we go further into the story, Lupone manages to add small, almost infinitesimally tiny touches that moves the character from the one to the three dimension. And then Lupone surprises us even more by how she reacts to seeing Parker in a serious state of distress, something that makes us admire and respect the character.
8) One very minor thing that bugged me was the script's insistence that Parker is inherently a good guy who loves his girlfriend, does right by people who do right by him, and lives by a code that can be interpreted as virtuous....which is not the Parker Donald Westlake had in his books. This choice to soften Parker is doubly confusing given that the script provides us with a sympathetic character we can identify with in Leslie.
|"Yeah, we're, like, bad guys and stuff because we're...bad.|
Plus our boss is Vince from The Shield....
9) On the other hand, I do appreciate how the relationship between Leslie and Parker develops. I'm pleased that Hackford keeps the attraction pretty much one-sided between the two, thus emphasizing Parker's being committed to his girlfriend and his view of Leslie as part of the job (and since Leslie held up her part of the job and didn't screw up in the way Hardwicke did in the first job, his taking so much time to make sure she's safe in the climax works character-wise).
10) Look, I understand that the house Melander's crew is holed up in is supposed to look run down...but why is it the one house that looks so out of place in the ritzy neighborhood they're operating in--and is the most sinister looking, grey-brown thing with exterior lights that look like malevolent eyes? What, did the sign shop in the area go out of business so they couldn't hand a 'Thieves At Work' sign over the door, or was that too subtle?
Overall...while there are some good elements, particularly some of the performances, the film's insistence in making Parker into a hero in character instead of incidentally interferes with it being the bad-ass movie it wants to be. All in all, just another film that comes off more as product than anything else.
Back to The Atlas, which has apparently taken to renting out some of its auditoriums on Sunday to a local church. The audio track was off during the running of the audiovisual sludge of the Regal Firstlook, allowing me to use my Kindle in peace. The trailers included the first one for Bullet In The Head that made me want to see the movie, if only because I now know it's a Walter Hill film; Iron Man 3 (no 'I have to see this moment, although I am intrigued by the trailer's stinger); and The Evil Dead remake, which I cannot decide whether there might be enough orginality in the mix to get me curious.