4-star film capsules -- Week of February 7

Associated Press Published:

"Parker" -- This plays like the bloodiest promotional video ever made for Palm Beach tourism. Stabbings, explosions and furniture-smashing brawls occur at some of the ritziest locations within the sun-splashed, pastel-soaked slab of Florida opulence. The city is the setting for a $50 million jewel heist as well as some revenge doled out with the usual machine-like efficiency by Jason Statham. As the title character, the anti-hero of many of the novels by Richard Stark (the pseudonym of the late Donald E. Westlake), Statham is stepping into a well-known persona. But he's not exactly pushing himself outside his comfort zone. Parker is the kind of thief who lives by a civilized, self-imposed code -- one he expects others to adhere to, as well. But this is the same character Statham always plays: quietly cool, dryly British, powerfully lethal. Director Taylor Hackford's rather perfunctory action film is actually more compelling before it even gets to Palm Beach, as Parker makes his way from Ohio to Texas to New Orleans before reaching his final destination. After being double-crossed by his partners (including Michael Chiklis and Wendell Pierce) on a daring robbery of the Ohio State Fair, Parker seeks revenge by tailing them to their next job: hitting the auction of some major jewels that belonged to a late society maven. Jennifer Lopez co-stars as the struggling Palm Beach real estate agent who learns too much and wants a piece of the action, but playing weak and girlish isn't exactly her strong suit. R for strong violence, language throughout and brief sexual content/nudity. 118 minutes.

H-1/2 stars.

"Broken City" -- It should come as no surprise that every character in a movie with a title like this is either rotten to the core, or a liar, or a schemer, or the bearer of seriously damaging secrets. What is surprising is that these characters never feel like real people, despite a series of twists that should, in theory, reveal hidden, unexpected facets of their personalities and despite being played by big-name stars including Mark Wahlberg, Russell Crowe and Catherine Zeta-Jones. They're all still conniving, only with varying alliances and targets. At the center of these dizzying double crosses is Wahlberg as Billy Taggart, a former New York police detective who got kicked off the force after a questionable shooting. Seven years later, Billy is barely getting by as a Brooklyn private eye. Then one day, the mayor (Crowe), who'd always been on Billy's side, hires Billy to investigate whether his wife (Zeta-Jones) is having an affair. He's up for re-election in a week and doesn't want to lose to a young, well-financed challenger (Barry Pepper) over revelations that he's being cuckolded. But Billy's digging leads to further revelations involving the mayor's rival, the rival's campaign manager (Kyle Chandler), the police commissioner (Jeffrey Wright) and some wealthy, well-connected land developers. Everything is simultaneously too complicated and overly spelled out. Director Allen Hughes' film is a forgettable piece of pulp. R for pervasive language, some violence and sexual content. 108 minutes.

H-1/2 stars.

"The Last Stand" -- The Arnold Schwarzenegger movie you didn't even realize you wanted to see. This is the action superstar's first leading role in a decade, having left acting to serve as the governor of California and whatnot, and while it may not have occurred to you to miss him during that time, it's still surprisingly good to see him on the big screen again. He is not exactly pushing himself here. Korean director Kim Jee-woon's American filmmaking debut turns out to be an extremely Schwarzeneggerish Schwarzenegger film, full of big, violent set pieces and broad comedy. He may look a little creaky (and facially freaky) these days, but Arnold proves he's still game for the mayhem as he fires off rounds and tosses off one-liners, and the movie at least has the decency to acknowledge that it knows that you know that he's old. The script also feels a bit old -- "The Last Stand" is essentially an amped-up version of "Rio Bravo," with some "Jackass"-style hijinks courtesy of Johnny Knoxville himself. A Mexican drug kingpin (Eduardo Noriega) daringly escapes federal custody and heads for a quiet Arizona border town where Schwarzenegger, as the sheriff, rounds up a posse of misfits to stop him. But Kim keeps things moving briskly and the members of the strong supporting cast (Peter Stormare, Luis Guzman, Forest Whitaker) don't seem to mind that they're playing flimsy types. Everyone's just here for a mindless good time. R for strong, bloody violence throughout and language. 107 minutes.

HHH-stars.

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