Saturday, December 05, 2015

Don't tinker with Parker unless you're Richard Stark

Here's an old post about a problematic movie adaptation of Richard Stark's Parker instead of the new post I wanted to write about one of the Parker novels. What's the connection? One of my complaints about Parker, the 2013 Jason Statham movie based on Stark's 2000 novel Flashfire, is the filmmakers' efforts to make Parker more sympathetic. Stark made occasional such efforts when he brought Parker back to life in 1998 after a 24-year hiatus. One of the most notable is the final chapters of Breakout, which, however, are harrowing and wistful in the manner of a lonesome country ballad, rather than cheap, in the manner of a shitty romantic comedy.
I don't know the politics of Hollywood movie making, but it sure looks to me as if Parker, based on Richard Stark's novel Flashfire, was designed less to render Stark faithfully on screen than it was to show off Jennifer Lopez's character (and her ass).

There's nothing wrong with that justifiably celebrated rear end. But those lower-body close-ups screamed not so much "Sexism!" as they did  "Look at me! No matter what part of me! I'm  a star!"

It's Lopez's presence in the movie, I'm convinced, that accounts for most of the unconvincing light-comic, cheap humanizing, and romantic elements. They're designed to show Lopez off: the reaction shots, the freak outs, the teary bits. She's not terrible, but she can't carry a movie, especially not one whose focus should be elsewhere. Similarly, the movie's not terrible, but it's a lot more a conventional action movie, complete with pro-forma efforts to show that the tough-guy hero is a good guy at heart, than Stark/Westlake/Parker fans probably hoped for. Read the books instead.

(For a scathing review of Parker, complete with links to dissenting opinions, view the excellent Violent World of Parker Web site. Even the positive reviews make exceptions for some of the elements I singled out here: Lopez and the cheap efforts to make Parker more sympathetic.)  

© Peter Rozovsky 2013, 2015

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Blogger adrian mckinty said...


I agree with you. I watched this on a plane and its all the more sad that Lopez agreed to this. She's a well established actress with a decent enough pedigree and enough money and clout to have called a halt to the proceedings. She has a massive entourage and not one of them thought to question the way she was being objectified in this awful film.

I know you're not the biggest fan of Point Blank in the world but I love Marvin's performance.

October 04, 2013  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I like Marvin's performance; I just wasn't sure he was the perfect Parker. But he came a lot closer to capturing the character than Parker came to capturing the novel on which it was based.

I didn't quite think the movie was awful but, like you, I was surprised by the way Lopez used her clout. It's as if she felt she was so powerful that she could make fun of the way that particular part of her body had been objectified or celebrated. I just wish she'd used her clout to make the movie better.

October 04, 2013  
Blogger Kelly Robinson said...

Sounds like this movie would just make me angry. I'll probably skip it.

October 05, 2013  
Blogger seana graham said...

It's a bad sign when the guy who actually plays Parker doesn't even come up in the conversation here.

October 05, 2013  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Skip it if you'd like to; the Parker novels are better. If your anger would stem from the gratuitous butt shots, I'll play the devil's advocate and imagine what Jennifer Lopez might say. She might evade charges of exploitation by saying she was in charge, she had the clout, she was in charge of her body, etc.

October 05, 2013  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Seana, you're right about that, especially since Jason Statham would make an adequate Parker if not forced to play into the romantic/comic/domestic angle. He's just good enough at playing a stolid hero to a good job of faking Parker's no-nonsense professionalism.

October 05, 2013  
Blogger Loren Eaton said...

The sympathy angle seems to be the problem. Parker's supposed to be a bit scary, and Hollywood has a problem portraying unlikable protagonists.

December 15, 2015  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Loren, you're right. Westlake did, in his way, gradually introduce elements of what could be considered sympathy into the Parker novels, but far more subtly than, say, Mel Gibson would be comfortable with.

December 15, 2015  

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