The Many Faces of Parker

I watched the latest Parker movie last night. 

It wasn’t terrible.

It wasn’t much Parker, either. But I’m not sure any of the adaptations are. Now now, before the Lee Marvin fans get their dander up, I do like POINT BLANK, the adaptation of The Hunter. And it is quite close, but almost too clever. Have you heard the theory that Marvin’s character is a ghost? 

Then there’s Payback, with Mel Gibson. I liked some of that too, and the director’s cut even more, but no one seems to want to play Parker straight. Statham’s Parker has a “code” to only steal from “people who can afford it,” as if we need to be told. He’s not robbing wallets in a supermarket, it’s a big heist at a huge carnival. Filmmakers feel like they have to make him likable, funnier, with a “code.” I’m sure they have all sorts of reasons. Probably hashed out in a boardroom.

But it’s silly. Did we stop watching Dirty Harry that time he pulled the trigger, not knowing whether he would kill the crook or not? Did we say “Indiana Jones, that was a jerk move when you let the propellers kill that boxer. Or when you shot the guy with the sword.” 

We like Parker because he is a consummate outlaw. Westlake even jokes with this. Parker becomes a monk during a job. He won’t have a woman, like a superstitious boxer before a fight. Parker almost always knows what to do. He keeps moving like a shark, he operates on instinct. And that is why we like him.

He’s the bad guy. 

Not a slavering psycho, just a businessman on the opposite side of the law. He’s not here to fix the sink, he’s here for the diamonds, and he will do that job without fuss or needless cruelty. But the job will get done, so don’t get in his way. He appeals in a backwards way to our work ethic. He does what he says, he doesn’t double cross. His only religion is revenge. 

Just a working stiff who wants to do a job. 

What’s not to like?

Get with it, Hollywood. Or don’t. Parker is still perfect, in our head movies.

If you don’t know Parker, begin with THE HUNTER and you’ll be hooked.