Reading the Screen: Richard Stark's Parker

Correct me if I’m wrong, but Parker, the forthcoming film starring Jason Statham, will be the first time Richard Stark’s professional criminal will appear on the big screen under his own name. (He’s been called Porter, Walker, Macklin, and Stone, but never, I think, Parker.)

Richard Stark was, of course, one of Donald E. Westlake’s many pseudonyms. He wrote a series of novels about Parker, and if you haven’t read them, stop what you’re doing and rectify that.

Parker is being directed by Taylor Hackford, who also did (among others) An Officer and a Gentleman, Ray, and Dolores Claiborne. At first glance he seems an odd choice for Westlake’s gritty crime story, but Hackford’s Proof of Life was a decent action movie, and The Devil’s Advocate has got some nice darkness going on.

Statham as Parker? Well, he looks the part, he can definitely handle a gun or his fists, and, since Parker is a man of few words, Statham’s rather thick British accent shouldn’t be too hard to conceal.

The movie is based on Flashfire, a 2001 Parker novel — the third Parker novel since his comeback in 1997’s, um, Comeback. (The previous Parker had been published in 1974). The story finds Parker working with a new partner, Melander, with whom he, shall we say, doesn’t see eye-to-eye on some things. Expect, if the filmmakers stay true to the book (and if they aren’t going to do that, why bother at all?), plenty of violence and action.

There have been some good Parker movies. Point Blank, with Lee Marvin, came out in 1967. The Outfit, from 1973 (with a brilliantly cast Robert Duvall), is pretty much forgotten now, unfortunately. Payback (1999), with Mel Gibson, was a sort of remake of Point Blank, or perhaps a new take on the source novel, 1962’s The Hunter. It’s a bit stylized — the color palette is muted in a show-offy kind of way — but it also does a nice job of translating Stark’s story.

I can’t speak for you, but I’m cautiously optimistic about the movie.

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  1. Statham rarely disappoints — he usually chooses good projects with solid scripts. I’m looking forward to this one.

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