There have been several of Donald E. Westlake’s (writing as Richard Stark) books about No-first-name Parker made into movies. Always before the name has been changed. Many of them are unsatisfying. Even some of the good ones, like Point Blank in 1967, starring Lee Marvin, aren’t really all that close to the excellent books they are based on. The Outfit, starring Robert Duvall, was one of the better ones. This one is probably the best, which I’ll admit came as a great surprise to me.
For one thing, the casting of Jason Statham is just about perfect. Even though he is a Brit, he does a good job of playing it American. And he looks the part. Parker is a hard, hard man. He never employs more violence than the situation requires, but when he needs to, he will beat you senseless or kill you if you get in his way. (Still, I hated the tag line for this movie, some horseshit about living by a “criminal code” whereby he only steals from those who can afford to lose what he’s taking. He has a code, all right, which is sheer pragmatism. He uses the minimum of violence because killing beings more heat from the cops. He takes whatever isn’t guarded well enough. He wouldn’t dip into a blind man’s cup … unless he needed a quarter to make a phone call. And if the blind man got in his way he would drop-kick the fucker all the way to the moon. He doesn’t steal from the poor because they have nothing worth stealing.)
Aside from that, it’s an amazingly faithful adaptation of the book Flashfire. Some changes were made, but they were mostly good ones. For instance, in the book’s opening scenes, they are robbing a bank. In the movie, they are robbing the Ohio State Fair, which is a dynamite filming location, and even makes sense, as they would have tons of cash on hand. But after the heist comes off, his partners inform him they intend to use the money—and his, too—to fund an even bigger jewel heist. Parker says no, and they shove him out of the car and leave him for dead. Another thing I like is that he doesn’t just shake this off, as Tom Cruise would have. He is hurt, and hurt bad. He’s not superman. But he is inexorable. The only way to stop him is to kill him. I’ll say it again: This is the best of the Parker adaptations.