Fans of the popular crime thrillers written by the late Donald E. Westlake under the pseudonym Richard Stark know that the fictional character called Parker is a professional thief with excellent work habits. He’s precise and efficient. He also has a strict moral code: He’s a cool killer, for instance, but he doesn’t steal from the poor. There’s your ethics for you. On the assumption, however, that not everyone who goes to see Jason Statham in Parker is a reader of Stark, the protagonist in this grinding, business-like thing is made to say things more or less like ”I’m a cool killer, but I don’t steal from the poor.” Usually, he states his case before beating a guy senseless, or knifing him, or (a Parker favorite) shooting him. True to his code, when he’s feeling generous, he only shoots to wound.
It’s just as well Parker voices his credo. Otherwise, he might as well be Tom Cruise in Jack Reacher, or Megatron in Transformers, so indistinguishable is the man in this unremarkably generic, insanely bloody and bullet-filled adaptation of the Parker novel Flashfire. The idea is, P. does a heist with a bunch of other guys who double-cross him, shoot him, and leave him for dead. Bad move on their part. The not-dead fellow rebounds, tracks the scum down in Palm Beach, Florida (a chance to show huge, expensive real estate), and demonstrates his get-the-job-done ethics by getting even. If you need a spoiler alert, then you’ve walked into the wrong theater in the multiplex.
Jennifer Lopez shows up in mighty fine, figure-hugging skirts as Leslie, a real estate agent who gets involved — professionally only, please! — after doing her own moral math. Leslie is divorced from a no-good man, she’s behind on her bills, and she lives in a crappy condo with a yappy dog and Patti LuPone as her mother. Don’t cry for her! Who wouldn’t want to go in on a job with a payoff that could free her from LuPone’s vague Hispanic accent? It’s just a guess on my part, but I’d wager Lopez took the role longing for the glory that was hers back in 1998 when she starred opposite George Clooney in Out of Sight. Oh, J.Lo — now I do cry for her. The movie is a morals-free procession of bang bang bang! and blood blood blood!, and men slamming each other with blunt objects and slicing each other with blades. Nick Nolte, bloated and ravaged beyond repair, shows up in a few scenes. So do Michael Chiklis and Wendell Pierce as bad guys, Bobby Cannavale as a kind of dumb cop — on and on, in and out, cash those checks.
You know how these days Hollywood folk want to open a ”dialogue” to ”discuss” a ”question without answers” about whether and how pop movies ”contribute” to today’s ”culture” of gun violence? They can start by answering the ”questions” of 1) whether this unredeemable indie-conglomerate project needed to be made and 2) if so, did it need to be made with such lavish and almost gleeful attention to hurting, killing, bleeding, and loading bullets. The answers are 1) no and 2) no. But maybe that’s just my moral code getting in the way of fun. C?