Monday, April 18, 2011

Misfire Ahead

From Variety via Ain't It Cool News comes word that a movie featuring Donald Westlake's classic hard-nosed thief Parker is now beginning pre-production. And sadly, it appears already that it will suck.

I love these series of books, which mostly appeared back in the late 60's and 70's, and then were recently revived in a somewhat new continuity by Westlake during the 2000's. Various books from the series have been adapted before, most famously with Mel Gibson in the lead (although renamed to "Porter") in Payback.

Although short, the Variety piece already throws up two big red flags for me. First, the lead will be taken by Jason Statham. Let's put aside for a moment that Parker is American, and I don't see Statham changing his accent any time soon. Statham has developed over the years into a big, fairly flashy action star. That isn't Parker. Parker and his teams aren't guns-blazing, explosion-blasting types. They are thieves - break in (preferably when few people are around), get control of the situation, get the loot, get out. I don't see Parker getting into any ten-minute long fist and gun fights, and that's where Statham's career has taken him now. I'd rather see someone with a little more quiet intensity. I actually picture someone like a younger Lance Henriksen, rather than Jason Statham.

Second, as taken from the article:
Pic, based on the book series by Donald Westlake, revolves around a thief who, though at times is forced to be a killer, still lives by a code of honor that includes never stealing money from people who need it. His word is his bond, and if he is crossed he will strike back relentlessly.

This guy isn't some kind of Robin Hood guy. He doesn't steal from "the rich" (and keep for himself). He steals from whomever has money - sometimes it's a rich person, sometimes it's a legitimate business, sometimes a bank, sometimes a racetrack...he isn't an altruist.

His "code of honor" is simple - get out of the job alive. He doesn't kill without reason, but that's because killing usually adds complications to a job (the police tend to treat murder a bit more seriously than a theft). He has an implicit "word" with his co-conspirators, but he keeps one eye on them just as much as on his victims. He's not out to screw his partners over, but if they step even a bit out of line, he's fully prepared to look out for Number One. So this view of Parker as some kind of "noble thief" shows that the writer is already off the tracks.

This won't be the worst Westlake adaptation by a long shot - I couldn't get through more than a few minutes of What's The Worst That Could Happen (which took his comic thief Dortmunder and turned him into, shudder, Martin Lawrence). But I'm not looking for it to go high on the list, either.

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