It’s hard to mess up Donald Westlake’s character Parker. I haven’t read the Parker novels Westlake wrote under the pseudonym Richard Stark, but I did devour the great comic book adaptations by Darwyn Cooke, and I have seen the movies. Lee Marvin played Parker in Point Blank and Mel Gibson had his turn in Payback. Now Jason Statham is Parker in the movie bearing the character’s name.
Parker starts out like any number of action movies you might have seen on Cinemax in 1991. Lots of fist fights, an outlandishly tough hero, a few bare breasts, a couple choice one liners (the best being when asked how he sleeps at night and Parker responds, “By not drinking coffee after 7 PM.”). But then Jennifer Lopez shows up. All of a sudden Parker is no longer a silly hard boiled action flick and instead veers into silly romantic comedy territory.
Parker is a career criminal who continuously gets screwed over by his partners in crime and thus is perpetually seeking revenge. Statham does a good job as a badass, which makes it more confusing why he’s wasting his time and ours hanging out with the flighty J Lo. Parker is the type of guy who only sees two uses for women, sex and information. J Lo doesn’t offer him either and drags the movie into the Jennifer Anniston/ Sandra Bullock netherworld.
Jennifer Lopez isn’t always a bad actress. She gave a good performance in the classic Out of Sight, but the director of that movie Steven Soderbergh knows how to give women a role. In his new movie Side Effects he follows a young woman looking for a cure for her depression. She is seen by a psychiatrist who prescribes a new medication for her. What at first seems like a boring social commentary about the dangers of our society’s over reliance on drugs instead ventures into film noir. Nothing is what it seems and… I have already said too much.
Side Effects is the type of movie that is better walking into knowing nothing. Allow its twists and turns to take you away to the places Parker’s punches will not.