Jason Statham plays the title role in "Parker," a thief who pummels his way through the underworld in search of the men who betrayed him. There is one obstacle, however, he can't overcome: his co-star, Jennifer Lopez.
The minute Lopez appears on-screen, "Parker" starts sinking, and fast. As a ditsy real-estate agent named Leslie, Lopez seems to be in a whole different movie, a working-girl comedy full of high heels and morning lattes. As a result, "Parker" winds up with the worst of both worlds: It's pointlessly violent and nauseatingly cute.
That's too bad, because "Parker" starts out strong, with a zippy heist sequence and the introduction of several enjoyable slimeballs played by Michael Chiklis, Wendell Pierce and others. (The source material is "Flashfire," by cult crime novelist Donald E. Westlake.) But when Parker heads to Florida to find his targets, the movie heads south as well.
That's partly because Parker's ridiculous disguise includes a Texas twang and a 10-gallon hat (Psst! You're not blending in), but mostly because his almost-romance with Leslie is even less convincing. Parker already has a girl (the safely hidden-away type, played by Emma Booth), and Leslie seems rather baldly attracted to his money more than anything.
That turns "Parker" into yet a third film: a cynical portrayal of greed in post-bailout America. Parker, a fake populist, steals only "from people who can afford it," which apparently includes the Ohio State Fair. (Those fat cats!) As for Leslie, she's not just grasping and venal but amoral. "I don't know what you're into -- kidnapping, extortion, robbery," she tells Parker. And she wants in!
The film's humiliating nadir comes when director Taylor Hackford ("Against All Odds") tries to wake us up by making Lopez strip to her skivvies while Statham watches. He doesn't seem terribly interested. Neither are we.
PLOT A thief betrayed by his gang returns for vengeance.
BOTTOM LINE You'd think a star like Lopez would raise Statham's profile, but her ditsy performance sinks this low-grade action flick like a stone -- not that it needed much help.