Statham on Familiar, If Fun, Ground in 'Parker'

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REVIEWS

'Parker'

R for strong violence, language throughout, brief sexual content/ nudity; [partial differential][partial differential][partial differential] (out of 4)

Based on a novel in a series by Richard Stark, the alter ego of the late, great Donald E. Westlake, "Parker" is basically a heist- and-payback movie, but it's made with skill and smarts.

As played by the ever-stoic Jason Statham, Parker is more antihero than hero: He operates on the wrong side of the law, but he's got a complicated code of ethics.

He will steal -- and steal quite unremorsefully -- but only from people who can afford it, he says. If you stumble into one of the many crimes he commits, he won't hurt you as long as you do exactly what he tells you to do. And woe unto anyone who dares to cheat him.

A double-cross is precisely what happens in the opening scenes of "Parker": A crew carries out a daring robbery at the Ohio State Fair. The heist does not run smoothly and after their escape, the second in command, the menacing Melander (Michael Chiklis), demands that Parker turn over his share of the profits to help finance the next job.

Like any sensible individual who hears those words, Parker is skeptical. So, he refuses and gets shot, robbed and dumped at the side of the road for his trouble.

The rest of the movie follows what happens when Parker recovers and decides to get his money back from -- and revenge on -- the guys who left him for dead. This requires him to figure out precisely what the next job is and where it's happening. The road to payback leads him into the orbit of Leslie (Jennifer Lopez), a real estate agent dying for her first commission.

Directed by Taylor Hackford ("Ray," "Proof of Life"), Parker is not without its absurdities. But Statham turns out to be a good choice to play the taciturn thief. He looks like the sort of guy who stands a good chance of getting out of any tight corner, even if his assailant is armed and he's not.

- Wide release

-- The Miami Herald

'Hyde Park on Hudson'

R for brief sexuality; [partial differential][partial differential]1/2

When did FDR have time to be president? That's the question you come away with upon watching "Hyde Park on Hudson," Roger Michell's film about Franklin D. Roosevelt's affairs, many of the amorous type, while staying at his mother's home in upstate New York.

The FDR role is one of the odder choices in Bill Murray's odd career, but one that he makes the most of. His Roosevelt is approachable, with a twinkle in his eye. Murray always brings a little of himself to his roles, sometimes a lot. Here, it's just the right amount.

Yet his performance is not enough. There's an intriguing middle act when the king and queen of England come calling, hand out, for support against the Germans, knowing that war is inevitable. But this is bookended by the story of Daisy, played by the usually solid Laura Linney. Daisy is Roosevelt's distant cousin, dowdied up until she practically blends in with the wallpaper.

She lives at home with her mother. But in 1939, struggling against the Depression like everyone else, Daisy gets a call. The president, whom she has not seen in years, would like to see her. Thus begins what Michell and screenwriter Richard Nelson portray as a romantic affair, one that includes a rather-earthy scene set in Roosevelt's car in the middle of a field full of flowers.

King George VI (Samuel West) and Queen Elizabeth (Olivia Colman) pay the Roosevelts a visit, feeling both intimidated and superior, Elizabeth in particular. She is appalled that Eleanor Roosevelt (a fine Olivia Williams) plans to serve them hot dogs at a picnic, among other slights, real and imagined.

The gamesmanship between the royals and the Roosevelts is far superior to Daisy's story. It grows even stronger when, after a calamitous dinner, FDR and the king get down to brass tacks over drinks in the study. …