Directed by: Taylor Hackford
Adapted from: Flashfire by Donald E. Westlake
Why are you interested in this adaptation?
Also because my choices were this or John Dies at the End, which I really want to read as a book first. And also because JDATE looks like it might be, you know, GOOD, and it’s been since Twilight Part Lee Pace Is Awesome that we had something to mock. So, you know, entirely too long.
So let me take you back to teenage me. She was a plucky sort. She spent long hours riding around in her friends’ cars (because she didn’t have her own) listening to movie soundtracks and eating Cheetoh’s and cookie dough while watching said movies. One of her favorite movies was Snatch. Which she could recite line by line. Much of that love was for the character Turkish. Which (1) led to eager consumption of all Guy Ritichie films and (2) also led Teen Rachel and her friends to watch every single Jason Statham movie that was ever released ever. (Transporter FOREVER!) Also (3) to scour the internet for pictures from Statham’s Olympic diving days. (srsly)
Wait. He was making movies when we were in high school? HOW DID I NOT KNOW THIS?
Lockstock was 1998 and Snatch was 2000 and Transporter was 2002. (Waits while readers attempt to figure out how old I am.)
Oh, that’s right. High school was before I started going to movies all the time. My Great Awakening with film came in college. This makes more sense now. Sorry for derailing. Ahem. Go on.
So yea. Because Jason Statham. Also because in the trailer he wears a giant cowboy hat and attempts a terrible southern accent, and that’s just something I have to see. Also punching people economically, strategically, and brilliantly. Also also hopefully shirtless and covered in grease or something. (TRANSPORTER FOREVER AND EVER!)
What will make it suck?
Probably JLo. I KNOW. But from what I can tell from the trailer, she’s going to be the hard-working damsel in distress type, and that’s BORING from a plot perspective. I don’t care if JStath saves anyone. I JUST WANT HIM TO PUNCH PEOPLE. JLo should play a villain. I think she’d be tremendous as a villain.
If it isn’t funny.
What will make it awesome?
If it’s as funny and awesome-death-ful as the live-action Looney Tune Shoot Em Up.
Other than Statham in a cowboy hat, for which I am already eternally grateful, this movie will be awesome if it has lots of slick suit-wearing, and terse dialogue, and the punching of people, and maybe some high-speed precision driving. As close as this movie can get to the Transporter. That would make it awesome.
Additional thoughts on casting or production?
No. I know nothing about this film except it’s got Jason Statham being Jason Statham-y. I feel like I got the impression of inept hitman, but honestly? I didn’t really pay attention to the trailer. I am zombie-consumering my way into this one. So, no, I have no additional thoughts.
So this is an adaptation of yet another of author Donald Westlake’s novels (others include Point Blank and Payback which were adaptations of The Hunter), titled Flashfire. Standard crimey/thriller/vengeance fare that your dad probably reads on the toilet. Fine. At least it’s not another Expendables movie. Michael Chiklis is in it, and he’s not a bad actor. JLo seems like some stunt casting to get ladies interested in seeing this film with their husbands instead of the latest romcom. Statham is always a solid choice when it comes to anti-hero crime films. He does it well. He’s been typecast, I’d love to see him try something different. But no one can hit a man with more gymnastic thrust than Jason Statham.
Reaction to Film?
Oh, wow, where to start. The opening was hilarious. Did you come to watch a film with slick moves and jet -setting locations? You’re in the wrong place. Welcome to the great caper at the Ohio State Fair! Statham in a salt and pepper wig with the 60s glasses…what? If I had to identify a cult leader or a serial killer at the Ohio Fair, I would have picked him. The introduction of the anti-hero by creepiness! Hopefully not a new trend! Or maybe he was creepysexy? Especially when he snake-charmed that panicking guard. It almost got kind of sexy? No? Maybe I was already writing the fic in my theater seat. YOLO.
And I didn’t even know it was Chiklis in that clown makeup until he wiped it off in one swipe with that dry towel in their getaway vehicle. Then I noticed poor Statham, returned to his muscle tshirt and buzzed head, smashed up against the passenger door and that is actually a sight I’ve never seen because THAT DUDE SHOULD BE DRIVING IS WHAT I AM SAYING. *shifts into Party Mode*
Then the movie got all boring because a bunch of creeps beat up Statham and he does not look as good laying halfway in a bog waiting for hill folk as he does when he’s driving nice cars and punching assholes IN THE FACE! Although, I am still very worried about that old man at the hospital. He needed to get to his radiation treatment! So after probably killing a poor old man by making him miss his radiation treatment, Statham attempts to drive cross-country via GTA-style auto thievery. Only he steals a bunch of minivans, and that isn’t fun to watch for 45 minutes. But I did. I watched it for 45 soul-killing minutes.
Fortunately after all the minivan driving you get to the best part of this flick. Statham in a cowboy hat and linen suit driving a nice car around Florida. There’s even a zoom shot of his sweaty ass crack? And he has an absolutely horrible, uterus-shriveling approx of a Texan accent (it’s … not.). And JLo should get an Oscar for successfully pretending to believe his bullshit accent for five minutes.
I’m not selling this at all. HE’S IN A LINEN SUIT AND A TEN GALLON HAT, YOU GUYS. IT’S HILARIOUS. BECAUSE HE’S TERRIBLE.
After what seemed an eternity of fake Texan-touring of mansions with Realtor JLo (during which she figures out everything about the plan because she reads the gossip column in the paper. Whatever.) there’s a toilet fight. A. TOILET. FIGHT. And some assassin guy stabs Statham’s hand, and there are far too many close-ups of the stabbed hand and the skin splitting and all manner of horrors and really this is something Iwould expect from The Following (<3) and not a Statham punch-em-up movie. After the knife and the hanging of a hotel building there’s the lying bloody on JLo’s back porch (where she lives with her mother), and her mom is totally OK with a bloody dude on the back porch and compliments his manhood while offering him soup.
I’m not even going to talk about the jewel heist climax of Parker (it wasn’t the Toilet Fight?), but I have never been more bored about a jewel heist. Seriously, watching Statham gummy guns to the undersides of tables was more interesting than the jewel heist.
Back to Statham eating chicken soup in JLo’s Mom’s kitchen. It was an interesting scene because it encompassed a lot of what worked for the film. The well-behaved bull in the china shop. Blood and gore covered killer eating chicken soup in an immaculate kitchen while being stitched up by his (kind of useless from a plot perspective, but I’m sure she’s a character in all the novels so that’s why they kept her) girlfriend. The dog likes him. Mom likes him (“he’s a real man!), and JLo can’t have him, so why all this sexual tension, it’s weiiiird that he lets her make such a fool of herself! COME ON, PARKER. You have rules!
But it’s also why this movie was so mediocre. Lame jokes, unsatisfying conflicts, a female lead we aren’t rooting for (in fact, I’m worried that her potential b/f copdudebro will get all suspicious about all that cash and get Parker in trouble!), and not so impressive capers are all a snooooooze. Statham carries the genre well, and when he’s allowed to do what he does so well (be terse; hit dudes in the face) then the movie approaches Sunday afternoon Netflix fare. Perhaps if I were a fan of the existing novels it would have been so much more satisfying than an enduring image of Statham in a Cowboy hat. (Though, I will take a gif of the ass sweat shot. I’m not picky.)
So…I forgot something at home, and I have to drive back for it.
Right. Let me tell you a little story about High School Elena. She was still feeling her way out of the cave she grew up in, the cave of No Pop Culture After 1975 that her parents decided was where they wanted to live for the rest of their lives. And it took her many years to come fully into the sunlight. She was very pale. She couldn’t stay out in the bright light of modern culture all day without burning for many years. Not until college. So high school was a very delicate time for our intrepid heroine. She was learning many things. Rom-coms, teenage movies, funny movies—anything anyone could teach her. She learned about MST3K. One fateful night she watched the MST3K rip on Future War. It was the best terrible movie of all time, and even in her ignorance of the broader genre of Great Terrible Movies she could recognize that. It…also contained a very studly kick-boxer who had an amazing round-house kick to the face, the tightest ass she had ever seen on a man, and gems of dialogue like “I am a tool.” So she sought out via the mystic interwebs a list of all the movies this man had ever made. They were few in number and low in quality, but she watched them all. This man had a name, a name you have never heard. That name, my friends, is Daniel Bernhardt.
Flash forward a good…thirteen years. Moff Elena is sitting in a theatre, amused and somewhat detached by the spectacle unfolding before her, when who should appear but the greatest tool of all time. Yes, my friends, that assassin? The crime-boss’s best man, the real professional, the one he sent to make sure his yokel jewel heisters didn’t fuck anything up again when it came to making people dead? That was none other than DANIEL BERNHARDT OMFG THAT’S DANIEL! IT’S DANIEL, RACHEL! DANIEL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I…don’t remember the next five minutes of the film. Really I don’t think I remember much of anything about any scene he was in except that Daniel randomly showed up in a movie I had noooooo idea he was going to be in (he stopped making movies regularly a long time ago, alas), and I spent every second he was on screen blushing and tittering like a school girl. Probably what Rachel did when Statham’s sweaty crack came on screen (I don’t know; I wasn’t there with her. Alas.)
Um, so, yeah, this movie was amazing. It was totally great! Everyone should see it! See it and learn the glory that is Danieeeel—
Oh, wait, what’s that? He wasn’t actually all that awesome in the fight scenes? Because they were lame fight scenes that were built on smashing heads into toilets instead of roundhouse kicks to the face? DANIEL WAS CRIMINALLY UNDERUSED! I’m sure it was in Statham’s contract that no villain gets to use a move he can’t do better, and since no one—not even you, Statham—can equal Daniel’s roundhouse I guess that’s why we didn’t get to see it. Hmph. Ass.
Anyway, I think we’ve about sped back up to where we should be by now in the reviewing process so let’s get to what I thought about this movie.
In the typical scheme of my reviews, that reaction means THIS MOVIE FAILED! It wasn’t awesome. It also wasn’t awesome to make fun of. Humph. I feel sorely ill-used by this caper.
Rachel called it, this really wasn’t a very exciting heist. In fact not much of anything about this movie was very exciting. I will admit, during the prologue at the Ohio State Fair I had a huge grin. That shit was hilar. State Fair! Best place to make a score of all time, wut.
And then we got into the serious part about they try and kill him, and do a piss-poor job of it, he has to get revenge. And his money. Bam!
Can we talk about the women? I love Statham’s girlfriend. I am so glad she was there, even if she had no purpose to the plot except to fulfill JLo’s contractual demand of not doing a sex scene (or maybe that was Statham’s!). But she was a brilliant contrast to JLo’s character. See, The Girlfriend knew what was up. She knew how to tell when her house had been infiltrated by a mob boss’s best tool (yessssss! I love you, Daniel!) and how to get herself out alive, keep him from following, and then get the hell out of the way. She was not going to wind up getting held hostage or get herself killed; she was not a “too stupid to live” crime-girlfriend. She was the real deal. So put her in direct contrast to dumbass JLo running around like this wasn’t really happening, like it was a sorority prank or something, and nearly getting everybody killed. I did appreciate that, once in the hostage situation, she kept her shit together, found the gun, had no compunctions about emptying the chamber and was actually a good shot. So she wasn’t irredeemable…but she was kind of annoying. I would not be stupid enough to go to the house. I’d write it off as a lost cause and then be happily surprised a year later, you know? So I couldn’t really relate to her. But I could totally relate to world’s best enabler Girlfriend—“I can’t control him” pretty much sums up how I deal with relationships in real life, friends or SO. Therefore, pointless or not, I nonetheless appreciated the girlfriend!
And I sort of wondered, at the end…what is JLo going to do with the money? She can’t use it, except to buy coffee every morning (which, I don’t know, maybe Starbucks’ every day for a lifetime would add up to a decent chunk of that bounty). Especially not if she got romantically involved with the cop who seemed to think she was still Jenny from the Block.
So, um, yeah, Parker was…well, Parker…was. Yes. This movie was. It happened. I watched it. It wasn’t terrible. It was an entertaining enough way to spend 118 minutes. But really I’d have spent that time better either watching Dredd again (which is actually TOTALLY fucking awesome on a re-watch, if we didn’t convince you to see it the first time, let me convince you now) or watching Lee Pace kick ass all over Twilight Part Killmenow again, so in the end I have to downgrade this viewing experience to a waste of my time. I could have just waited for the .gif of Statham’s sweat-drenched linen-covered bum.
Except then I’d have missed Daniel, and what a shame that would have been. So, upgraded again to “worth it for Daniel and Statham’s bountiful manly good looks”? Yes. I think that’s where I’m going to leave it.