Personal blog - and temporary home page until new website is finished - of writer, editor and graphic artist Christopher Mills

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Catching Up On The Action

Anyone who reads this blog regularly knows that I love goofy action movies (particularly those of the 80s and early 90s), and that a few months ago, I was particularly looking forward to Arnold Schwarzenegger's The Last Stand and Jason Statham's Parker. Well, last month, I picked up the Blu-ray editions of both of those films, and wanted to just post a few thoughts here.

I pretty much loved The Last Stand. Yes, the story defies logic, but 1.) so what? and 2.) I really don't care when it's this much fun. I thought Arnold was great in his role of small-town sheriff, mentoring a small crew of deputies, and while the real action doesn't kick in until the third act, it's well-staged and executed by director Kim Jee-Woon, his stunt team, and the aging Arnold. The rest of the cast was adequate (I almost always enjoy Luis Guzman, and he's got a fun gag with Arnold's Conan sword), and I thought that actress Jaimie Alexander (Sif from Thor) was particularly good.

As for Parker, well, it turned out pretty much as I expected. It was an okay Jason Statham action flick and a poor adaptation of Donald "Richard Stark" Westlake's literary antihero. The filmmakers made the same mistake that nearly everyone has in adapting the character to film: they made him too human. The character in Westlake's novels is almost a machine, an unemotional, taciturn professional criminal with laserlike focus on the job at hand, whether it's a heist or revenge against someone who's wronged him. Here, they have the character verbalize (at least twice!) a "code of honor" that is both nonsensical and completely out of character. Too bad.

Statham does a professional job with what he's given, and I can't blame him for the mis-characterization. No, that falls fully on the script by John J. McLaughlin and the pedestrian direction of Taylor Hackford. Surprisingly, I thought Jennifer Lopez was pretty good.

Anyway, the movie has its moments, and I don't hate it, but it is a disappointment. Maybe they'll get it right next time.


Jack Badelaire said...

Total agreement with The Last Stand. 'Nuff said.

Having recently read The Hunter, I'm also in agreement with your opinion of Parker. Statham comes off WAY too "friendly" - it's the same character he plays in 90% of his roles, the tough on the outside but actually soft and mushy on the inside anti-hero.

The problem, as you point out, is that Parker is NOT an anti-hero. He's a merciless bastard who will do ANYTHING to accomplish his goal. I recently caught most of Mel Gibson's Payback on cable, and again, they make the mistake of making him a "lovable tough guy".

Christopher Mills said...

The Director's Cut of Paybakc is a huge improvement over the theatrical version. Still not the "perfect" Parker adaptation, but pretty good.

I still like Point Blank the best, though The Outfit and The Split are pretty good, too. Both of those "humanize" Parker, but otherwise do a fair job of evoking the "Richard Stark" worldview.