"I take orders from the Octoboss."


tn_parkerstathamWell, yep. I’m afraid we saw this coming. Academy Award nominated director with unfortunately appropriate name Taylor Hackford’s adaptation of Richard Stark’s Parker book Flashfire is not very good.

Jason Statham plays Parker, the cold-hearted career criminal, professional problem solver and single-minded seeker of money. Or he’s supposed to be that character, anyway. He’s involved in a robbery but the other guys on the team want to use the loot as seed money for another heist, and he doesn’t want to. They shoot him and dump him in the water, but he survives and comes looking for them, planning to steal the proceeds from this other heist.

Michael Chiklis is Melander, the leader of the other heisters, who we don’t really get to know much about. Clifton Collins, Jr. is also on the crew, but I couldn’t name a single character trait for him other than Clifton Collins, Jr. looks a little older than last time I saw him in a movie. Parker wears a cowboy hat and pretends to be a Texas oilman so that he can look at mansions in Palm Beach and figure out where Melander and friends are hiding out. Jennifer Lopez plays Leslie, the real estate agent who shows him around, figures out that he’s not really Texan, and pushes her way into his scheme.

When Parker starts talking in his regular Statham accent Leslie is proud of herself. “Ah ha! English accent. I knew you weren’t from Texas!” I couldn’t tell if it was a joke, but it’s ridiculous after several minutes of Statham’s not-even-close attempt at being Southern. If it took her research to figure out he’s a fake she probly shouldn’t be bragging about it.

I’m good at spotting little inspired moments even in shitty DTV movies, and this isn’t as bad as alot of those, but then again I can’t think of a single moment or aspect in the fuckin thing that’s better than mediocre, or really worth thinking much about.

mp_parkerOh, okay, here’s an area of mild interest: there is an ass-checking-out motif. When Leslie first meets Parker there’s a shot of his ass as he walks away and she checks him out. Later a cop who’s always hitting on Leslie checks her ass out. Knowing the book I can speculate that maybe this is to establish Parker’s all-business, no-sexual-interest attitude, since I don’t think he ever checks out her ass, even when he makes her strip to her underwear and turn around. Or they don’t make a point of showing his appreciation for it or anything. But I don’t think they really establish his lack of interest, either. Or I didn’t notice it, anyway.

Other than this important butt theme there’s very little personality or life in this thing, and little successful humor. The action filmatism is your usual choppy style you get now, with two okay fights maybe being the highlights, if there is such a thing. The photography is competent, the music is generic studio style and not appropriate for the subject matter. Thrilling Hollywood Heist Movie Score #2 by David Buckley would work for the ITALIAN JOB remake or something like that, but it drowns out any intimacy in this smaller crime tale that climaxes with just some guys in a living room shooting each other at close range. There are no speed boat chases or any vehicles going off jumps, no helicopters, no skydiving, only small explosions, more like fireworks. But nobody told the orchestra or the guy programming the drum machine.

"The problem is when you use as much score in a film as we use in this, if it wasn’t good, you’d be sitting here going, 'Ooof! God, I couldn’t stand that score.' There’s so much of it and he kept saying, 'Are you sure you want this much of it?' I want to. The score is always the wonderful icing. The score tells you the emotional content of the film." --Taylor Hackford
“The problem is when you use as much score in a film as we use in this, if it wasn’t good, you’d be sitting here going, ‘Ooof! God, I couldn’t stand that score.’ There’s so much of it and he kept saying, ‘Are you sure you want this much of it?’ I want to. The score is always the wonderful icing. The score tells you the emotional content of the film.” –Taylor Hackford

As a Jason Statham vehicle it’s thoroughly bland and middle of the road, low on action (if you expected that), definitely not among his best, though not his worst either. As an adaptation of the book Flashfire and the character of Parker, though, it’s more offensive. The surface level plot is pretty faithful, maybe about 70% the same as the book, but all the important shit is wrong. SLAYGROUND and MADE IN USA are even worse as adaptations, but that’s no excuse. And they didn’t have the balls to call themselves PARKER.

Flashfire is the 19th of 24 Parker books, published in 2000. So it actually came out after PAYBACK, and it would’ve made a great introduction to the character for people who just got into him then. The book starts with Parker and the crew leaving from a bank robbery. (The more fanciful State Fair robbery of the movie is fine, one of several additions reminiscent of things that happen in other Parker books.) As in the movie Melander and the others try to get Parker in on their larger jewelry heist, and take his share when he refuses. (In the book they consider it a loan and swear to pay him back, but he goes after them anyway.)

Here’s the major difference: they tell him right there what the caper is, a charity auction in Palm Beach. He tells them how it would have to be done and a long list of reasons why it’s a bad idea, including that they’d have to have a boat “which is the only way off the island, and which is even worse than an island, because there’s no way off the boat.” This dialogue would’ve been good in the movie because it demonstrates Parker’s tactical mind and also sets up tension about the heist. In the movie it’s only Leslie, the civilian, who speculates about what kind of security they’re gonna have there. Nobody ever talks about the danger of a robbery that takes place on an island, nor about the crew’s escape plan, a major hook in the book. They don’t have to flee because they buy a mansion and establish themselves as residents of the community long before the robbery. Then they’ll stick around until the smoke clears. The movie ditches this entirely but keeps real estate agent Leslie as a main character.

Stark’s writing is about being direct and blunt, and these are procedurals. Alot of the excitement is in the detailed planning of the robberies. By page 12 we know how they found out about the auction, who their inside man is, why he needs the money, why he doesn’t get caught. By the time the movie is done cutting out all the process and the tricks you no longer have an interesting heist, you just have yet another one, worthy of a TV show maybe. Not a show I’d watch, though.

Flashfire is actually a great choice to adapt into a movie, or at least it would’ve been if they’d respected its structure more. Parker has his mission from right at the beginning: he wants his share from the bank robbery, and he’s gonna get it by heading them off on this Palm Beach job. I love how it mimics the skeleton of the first Parker book, The Hunter (basis of POINT BLANK and PAYBACK and the comic book version). He’s betrayed and left behind, and he has to rebuild his resources in order to pull off this plan. In The Hunter that’s petty crimes, pickpocketing and stuff. In Flashfire it’s a series of mini-heists. He steals a backhoe and busts through the side of a gun store, he robs a drug dealer and a movie theater. The movie only keeps the part where he robs a check cashing place, and skips the details about hiding cash in the doors of a car and spreading the rest through multiple bank accounts. No sense of fun, no love for process.

In the movie there’s a scene where Parker goes to get his fake passport and the guys there are scuffling with some thugs sent to kill Parker. The scene plays out about like in the book and shows how Parker handles a situation like that. But in the book he just has bad luck and stumbles across something: another customer wanting to kill the only people who know his new identity. It shows the dangers of this kind of business and the randomness of problems that Parker encounters on a job. And it creates this sort of dramatic juggling. Parker continues with his plan while also having to deal with the repercussions of this side-incident. Typically, the movie version reduces this interesting development to routine Bad Guys coming after The Good Guy.

In a recent piece in the L.A. Times, Hackford made it clear that he’s a fan of the Parker books and knows all about their history. He talks admiringly about POINT BLANK and notes that none of the previous adaptations were allowed to be called “Parker.” He explains how an editor “freed Westlake from having to write a ‘do right’ protagonist” and that “There’s absolutely no puritan ethic in Westlake’s Parker. Under no circumstances could he be called a hero.”

Yet, in his movie, he makes the same damn mistake every other Parker adaptation has made, and worse than most: he fucking humanizes him. He makes him seem like a family man. Clare – Parker’s long-suffering girlfriend who lives a separate life from him waiting until he’s done with his jobs – becomes a loving girlfriend who he calls on his cell phone, flashbacks about as if she’s his motivation, and who even comes to stitch him up when he’s injured. The book has a minor character named Hurley, an associate of Parker’s who opted out of the bank robbery and suggested Parker as his replacement. In the movie Hurley is played by Nick Nolte, he’s Clare’s father and Parker’s advice-giving mentor and father figure. Unacceptable.

To be fair, there are some parts in the movie where Parker is a little more harsh than, say, The Transporter might be. He does make Leslie take off her clothes to show she’s not wearing a wire (although with curvy Lopez in fancy underwear it’s more of a sensual moment than the cold-hearted violation it is in the book). He grabs her by her hair in one part. They left out the part where he threatens to throw her off a balcony. Other than that you only see his brutality unleashed on murderers and people who tried to kill him. That’s pretty standard for action movies, so it doesn’t do much to counteract the earlier impression that he’s a nice guy.

PAYBACK really went out of its way to establish what’s different about the character they call “Porter.” During the opening credits we see him get a bullet pulled out of him, steal from a beggar, steal cigarettes from a waitress, steal a guy’s wallet and commit credit fraud. (He also does regular asshole things like not tip, jump a turnstile and push his way between a couple who are holding hands.) Shortly after, in the director’s cut, we see him beat up his wife. That we later find out she tried to kill him only partly makes it better.

This PARKER is supposed to be that same character, but he sure doesn’t seem like it. During the opening robbery he announces “We only steal from people who can afford it and we don’t hurt people who don’t deserve it.” The first part is almost true of the literary Parker, since he’s usually going after big scores. The second part is clearly not accurate. Deserving’s got nothing to do with it, he does whatever he needs to to accomplish his goals. Sometimes that includes being nice to someone, as in the same scene when he calms down a panicked security guard. But in the books it’s very clear that he’s only saying what he needs to to get the desired results. This is a guy who won’t even have a conversation unless he calculates that the person will need that type of human interaction before giving him what he wants.

Though Hackford writes that Parker’s alleged “code of ethics” really “has more to do with pragmatism than any Robin Hood idealism” it didn’t stop him from adding a scene where Parker apparently left a bunch of money for the family of hicks who found him when he got shot. Nothing pragmatic about that.

I bring these things up not to point out that “Hey! That’s different from the book!”, but to show that they’ve changed the essential things that make Parker Parker and that make Flashfire worth making into a movie. None of the good Parker movies – POINT BLANK, THE SPLIT, THE OUTFIT, PAYBACK – are completely faithful adaptations either, but they keep more of the character and the tone than this one does, and are more entertaining movies as a result. I can’t imagine that someone who doesn’t know the books could see this and be able to point to what makes Parker different from Frank Transporter or other Statham characters, except that he does less driving and martial arts.

I just don’t get how these people think. If you like the character of Parker, why would you not want the movie to be about that character? If you would rather make a movie about a more normal movie anti-hero, then why did you sign up to make Parker? And especially in this case, when you have put in writing in a public forum your awareness of six previous Parker adaptations that were not allowed by Westlake to use the name, don’t you have a moral obligation to represent the character well on screen? I say yes.

Man, they fuckin blew it on this one. It seems like it would take effort to make this exciting of a character seem so boring. But I guess that’s just the Hackford magic. If this was supposed to start a series of Parker movies starring Statham I’m pretty sure that ain’t happening. And since they used the damn name as the title it’s gonna make it that much more difficult for somebody else to do one. Thanks alot, assholes.

But Parker is a hard guy to kill. Maybe some other time.

If you thought this was a negative review, check out what Trent from The Violent World of Parker has to say. Some of the commenters liked it though, including Max Alan Collins (writer of Road to Perditionand the Parker homage Two for the Money).

This entry was posted on Sunday, January 27th, 2013 at 11:44 pm and is filed under Crime, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

88 Responses to “Parker”

  1. A mess like you describe I’d be surprised if stories of studio/actor/actress demands don’t surface sooner or later.

    But in some ways it’s also understandable that you can’t take an x million dollar investment and pin it on a bastard of a main character.

    Even a great book adaption like ‘Out of Sight’ softens the Jack Foley character from the book.

    In the Out of Sight book Foley’s charming but still a loser who is always heading to a dead end as a bank robber incapable of doing anything else.
    But the book does book magic, enough that he is still likeable.

    Movies can’t really do that complexity so glosses over the inevitability and focuses on the roguishness more [helped along by the playful score].

    Putting someone like Parker on the screen where you don’t even have that Foley charm, any star is going to complain [Gibson did it you don’t think Statham would to?] and you for sure can’t pin that kind of money on Parker as is.

  2. But if that’s the case then why make PARKER? If you don’t think you can make Parker then go make something else.

    Anyway, as I tried to demonstrate in my review, PAYBACK (and POINT BLANK and THE OUTFIT) made him a bastard, even if they made some compromises to the character. And making PARKER generic clearly didn’t make it a hit. They could’ve made a way better movie and it would’ve made the same amount of money, plus somebody might still remember it exists in two years.

    I honestly don’t think they were worried about commercialism. I think Hackford just has blandness running through his veins, he doesn’t know how to do anything else.

  3. Bleh. This thing was still-born from the get-go. Thanks for watching it so I didn’t have to Vern.

    By way of a thank you I want to direct your attention to the new show Banshee – the main character of which is Parkeresque. I give my personal guarantee that you will dig the fuck out of it. Best pilot since Justified’s. Just what the doctor ordered to remedy this shitburger of bland you had to choke down.

  4. Vern, I just read my first Parker-novel. THE MAN WITH THE GETAWAY FACE and I really dug it. Being unfamiliar with the books myself, I´d like to know how you rate that amongst the other Parker´s?

  5. I haven’t read Flashfire, but I thought this was really good. I think they tried to have it both ways. They allow Parker to be the straightforward no-nonsense badass of the books in some scenes (the way he only wanted his cut of the money, the wire scene, how he shoots the one guy because he didn’t do what he was supposed to during the heist), but they also Hollywood-ized him to fit into the hero mold. I know fans will grumble at that last part, but if you look closely, the heroic stuff he does isn’t all that heroic and is actually kinda in line with the character we know and love. Like the scene where he coaches a security guard down from a panic attack during the robbery. Parker gives him a spiel about how “we don’t hurt anyone who doesn’t deserve it”, which seems out of step with the character, but if you notice, he’s carefully watching his antsy crew. He knows that if they shoot this guy, it’s going to bring more heat down on them. Parker will do anything to get what’s coming to him, even if it means giving some kid a long-winded speech about how he should go home and hug his girlfriend. So in that respect, I took that dialogue as not necessarily a softening of the character, just a different way for Parker to maintain the situation and keep the robbery on track. Also, the scene where he shoots the guy in the leg and says, “Don’t worry, I’ll call you an ambulance”. Parker would never do that, BUT… we don’t ever see him make the call, so he was probably blowing smoke up the guy’s ass to make him play ball. Yes, the middle section of the film is draggy, but the bookend heists were well done and the supporting cast was aces (especially Nick Nolte). I also loved the brief epilogue where it looks like (SPOILER) they’re setting things up for a sequel by introducing the Mafia don and then Parker just shoots him in the head for not giving him the proper percentage and that’s the end of the movie. THAT scene was truly Parker

  6. Hey Vern, just a little addition to the products you linked and your discussion of PAYBACK: you can pick up a Blu-ray in the amazon.uk.co shop that contains both the original and the Straight Up director’s cut in one package. The only way I know of to get the theatrical cut in high-def. it’s a region-free release so it’ll play in all players without problem.

    As for this PARKER, I guess might check it out at home eventually, but the revelation that it doesn’t even try to be a decent B-grade action flick in place of bastardizing the source material really is sad.

  7. billydeethrilliams

    January 28th, 2013 at 6:59 am

    I knew this was going to be a complete failure as a Parker movie, so I went into it expecting a silly action romp. It failed at that too. This was so generic and uninspired in every way possible. And what really gets me is that (despite several films being made about them) the Parker books are kind of a niche thing. Why did Hollywood have to go out of its way to fuck it up? I’m still looking for that French film based on The Score. Anyone?

  8. A buddy of mine insists that the character that comes closest to Westlake’s Parker from the novels is Bender on FUTURAMA.

  9. I hated it. I was surprised just how miscast Statham was, I knew Lopez was wrong, but Statham really showed that he is no Lee Marvin/Robert Duvall/Mel Gibson. Also a shame that Nick Nolte got the short end of the stick in two different movies in two weeks.

  10. Wow, am I the only one here who actually liked it? I know that I have not read the books, but I do remember watching “Payback” a long time ago and enjoying it. I might have to read some of the books now.

    Personally, I didn’t think it was bad. I was still entertained by the movie.

  11. I’m telling you, Im Schatten is the best Parker movie we’ll ever get.

    This movie was like some made-for-tv CBS movie. But I thought it was hilarious how Statham kept going on about the hay bales though. His “code” made him seem not so much single-mindedly driven to pull of the job like he is in the book, as he is some kind of autismal ocd control freak sociopath. He’s the criminal version of Mr. Monk, on a quest to avenge the wrongly burned hay bales.

    I’m still miffed about the “dedicated to westlake” thing at the end though. Like anyone involved in this thought they made anything remotely respectable to the memory of him and his creation. I feel at least as strongly about it as Statham did about the hay bales.

  12. The Original... Paul

    January 28th, 2013 at 5:57 pm

    Well I don’t know much about Parker, despite having seen all of the other movies that you mention, Vern. But I’ve been longing to see Jason Statham used in a movie that really works to his persona and skillset, much as “The Terminator” works to Arnie’s or “First Blood” works to Stallone’s. Heck, “The Bank Job” was great, and “Safe” was at least decent even if it lived up to its name far too much. (Why the fuck would you make a 12A Statham movie?!) Unfortunately it sounds like this isn’t what I wanted.

    I’ll wait for TV anyway. Thanks for the warning.

    And boy, did Trent hate this movie. Ouch.

  13. The Original... Paul

    January 28th, 2013 at 6:02 pm

    Begging pardon – haven’t seen “The Split”. Can’t recall having even heard of it. The others were great though, but I wouldn’t peg the characters as being based on the same guy if you hadn’t have told me that.

  14. “I’m still miffed about the “dedicated to westlake” thing at the end though. Like anyone involved in this thought they made anything remotely respectable to the memory of him and his creation. ”

    “When a fresh-faced producer in a Mercedes offered him a dedication, Westlake told him to go to hell.”

  15. billydeethrilliams

    January 28th, 2013 at 7:58 pm

    Parker Barnes- Is there ever going to be a U.S. release of Im Schatten? I don’t feel like buying a multi-region Blu-Ray player. Because I feel like I really need to see that. Also I agree with you on the made-for-tv feel. And that constant generic thriller music felt like someone poking the back of my skull throughout the movie.

    Vern- You should check out Jack Reacher if it’s still out. At least that had crisp action scenes.

  16. That’s too bad about the film. Was hoping this film could break Jason into a new level and get better options to do. If I had to guess it was studio interference that watered the character down. But you bring up an excellent point: why the hell do you call it Parker in that case?

    And here I was pretty excited even though the trailers didn’t show anything to get fired up about.

  17. JACK REACHER is way better, yes.

    That said, I liked this more than I expected. I can’t defend it as a Parker movie and I won’t even try, but as a Statham vehicle I think it’s better than average. I’m sure it helped plenty that I haven’t read FLASHFIRE and so I’m not constantly thinking about how much better it could’ve been.

    Okay, so, the kindler and gentler Parker. Would I have preferred Pure Parker? Absolutely. But the humanizing attempt… I bought into it. Maybe that’s horrible in of itself. I knew Jennifer Lopez was in the movie and I was dreading her appearance, but her character actually worked for me. The attempts to flesh her out didn’t feel perfunctory to me, the movie was actually interested in her. I think she’s the main thing that made the movie feel really unusual to me. The scene where Statham’s in her condo with his old lady and J-Lo and her mom was just weird – Statham being nurtured by all these women like a wounded bird. I hadn’t seen something like that in one of his flicks before.

    “You were supposed to burn the haystacks by the animal pen” or whatever is one of the weirder one-liners I’ve ever heard before a badguy is offed. Also I liked his deadpan “yeah, dogs like me” as he’s drenched in blood with a pomeranian sitting on his lap. As a crime movie I thought it was pretty good with some cool procedural details showing Parker’s resourcefulness, though clearly not as many as you hoped for Vern. I also liked stuff like Nolte talking about how he thought Palm Beach was a dead-end – that had to all be from Westlake, it really had his mark. Hackford’s definitely as bland as you say, I just think he accidentally made an interesting movie by taking some quality source material and watering it down in a weird way. He has very little visual flair, though I really liked the location shooting (Ohio felt like Ohio), and a vanilla sensibility… those gauzy flashbacks to Nick Nolte’s fucking pool party were particularly bad.

    The ‘in loving memory of donald westlake’ dedication in the end credits was kind of a sick joke.

  18. Shoot – The Man With the Getaway Face is good, but not one of the best. It’s kind of a bridge between The Hunter and The Outfit. The Outfit is one of my favorites so I definitely recommend that one. And The Hunter of course started it all.

  19. Thanks for the recommendations, Vern. I picked that one, because I wanted an early parker, but a fresh story I knew nothing about. I´ve watched the adaptations of THE HUNTER and THE OUTFIT so I knew the story of them.

    The character of Stubbs is probably the most memorable aspect of that book. He is a great character and you
    can´t help but feel sorry for him of how shitty Parker treats him, even if Parker just does it for what he sees as a pragmatic solution. Not to be cruel.

    Also, I liked the ending with what Parker had in that overnight bag.Without spoiling anything to anyone ,it tied in nicely from an early part in the book. Great stuff.

    Also also , yes it does kind of feel like a bridge between two books. His situation with the outfit and why he needs
    plastic surgery as an effect of the previous events and then at the end when he decides to go after the outfit,
    seems like it ties in with the third book.

  20. billydeethrilliams, unfortunately Im Schatten couldn’t even rate a bluray release in it’s own country, just dvd, so I doubt it’ll manage a us dvd anytime soon. I watched it through extralegal means and even then it wasn’t the easiest thing to find at the time. I think it was kind of overshadowed that year by The Robber, another great german crime film.

  21. Okay, you got me. I ordered Im Schatten.

  22. Stu – nice appropriation of the first line from The Hunter.

    Vern – Is there ever a specific reference to Parker’s age in the books? It seemed like he was in his late twenties or early thirties in the early books (I’ve read up to The Mourner), but 30 years later in the Comeback (which I read first, weirdly), it didn’t seem like he was that old. In my mind, I always picture him as being ageless, kind of like James Bond.

  23. I agree, Parker is ageless. His books seem to take place in chronological order (they often tie into the last book and have continuity as to when Handy McKay retires, when he gets together with Clare, etc.) but he doesn’t start to seem old at the end. I like that in Flashfire it talks about not being able to do cash robberies because so many people use credit cards now.

  24. Yeah, he mentions the credit card thing in The Comeback, too. It’s like saying “times change, but Parker doesn’t”. Except in the movies.

  25. There’s a Donald Westlake interview somewhere where he laments that the big money is all in computer crime nowadays, and Parker doesn’t have any use for a computer, except maybe to hit someone with. Anyhow, I suppose I’ll wind up watching this one anyhow, but my hopes are now even lower than before. Strange how JACK REACHER sounds like the better option (with Tom Cruise as the 6’5″ ex-MP major).

    By the by, I actually enjoyed the hell out of MADE IN USA. But it’s sure not a Parker film.

  26. JACK REACHER is superior for plenty of reasons, the main being that Tom Cruise just straight up hurts people without remorse for the whole thing. The nihilism runs deep. REACHER ends with a “This guy looks out for the little guy” coda but with an implication of extreme violence, vs PARKER’s “Someone sent us a check in the mail. It was cool.”

  27. I liked JACK REACHER, but to me it seemed constrained by the PG-13. The action was staged and shot well, but it felt like it should have been grittier and bloodier. It’s hard for me to get invested in a fight where two guys repeatedly punch eachother in the face to no effect (unless it’s a kung fu film). I want to see some bloody squibs and broken noses, please.

  28. What really pisses me off about this are the reviewers that talk about how the movie keeps Parker true to the character with a strong sense of right and wrong (I’m looking at you AICN). Really fuckers? Which books did YOU read? It wasn’t Parker!

  29. I agree that JACK REACHER seemed seriously hampered by it’s PG-13 rating but, for me, it’s biggest problems were Cruise himself and the story, which seemed to be a patchwork of other films.

    To be fair, the introduction of Cruise in this is hilarious. He really is on an ego trip and a half in this one.

  30. my mom is a big of fan of those Jack Reacher novels and even she thought Cruise was miscast and thus did not care to see it

  31. from what I understand, the character in the novel is supposed to be really tall, blonde and muscular

    yeah, sounds just like Tom Cruise…

  32. Actually, I thought cruise was decent as Reacher.

    Sure he talked too much, but that’s probably the only way to get the internal monologs from the books over.

  33. Vern’s review confirms my suspicions that this was going to be disappointing. I had hoped it might surprise me. Not only do I like Statham, but I am also a huge fan of Michael Chiklis (THE SHEILD). Oh, well, I will still check it out when it comes out on Blu.

    Speaking of THE SHEILD it makes me happy that there are three films in theaters right now featuring different cast members of THE SHEILD. This one has Chiklis in it, Forest Whitaker seems to almost be reprising his role of John Kavanaugh from THE SHEILD in THE LAST STAND, and Walt Goggins was very good in his limited role in DJANGO UNDCHAINED. For any of you interested that still have never checked out THE SHEILD Hulu Plus now has the entire series streaming. I rewatched the entire series and it was even better the second time.

    I saw JACK REACHER and really liked it. Cruise is miscast based on the Reacher character from the books, but if you can put that comparison aside and view JACK REACHER the film on its own as an action film and Cruise vehicle it is a lot of fun.

  34. Man, I missed REACHER. I’d go see it right now but it left. I promise I’ll see it as soon as it hits the rays of blu.

  35. I think you will like it Vern.

    I ment to mention it in my previous post but I would have to say that Ringo Lam’s FULL CONTACT is my favorite Parker film adaptation. It may not be the most faithful adaptation but it is great B movie fun.

  36. The Original... Paul

    January 31st, 2013 at 3:31 pm

    It wasn’t Cruise who nearly ruined Reacher, despite the fact that he absolutely cannot do “intimidating” and it’s the last type of role he should ever play; anyway, it wasn’t him, it was Rosamund Pike. That aside, I agree with the recommendations. It’s certainly a good film, I just wish they’d got an actress who could pull off the role that she has (and a scriptwriter who could write it).

  37. I didn’t think Rosamund Pike was bad, it’s more that her character was terribly written. She was laughably incompetent at her job and came across like a petulant teenager with a truckload of daddy issues. I felt bad for her dad, which I doubt was the intention.

    As for Cruise, well… I don’t know about the book, but in the movie Reacher seems like a Sherlock-Holmesian smug dick. A role like that requires a certain level of self-awareness, a recognition that maybe this character isn’t such a fun dude to hang out with. Cruise doesn’t have that ability, so Reacher ends up seeming like kind of a sociopath. In a way that makes it more fun to watch, but it also holds it back from being truly badass cinema.

  38. Reacher in the novels has a weird kinda social autism thing. He spent his whole life in the military, so he really doesn’t know how normal people are supposed to behave when there isn’t a rigid chain of command. He just knows how to catch them and kill them. It makes him feel quirky and awkward and oddly innocent, like an old hermit who lives alone in a shack down by the river. I haven’t seen the movie, but having a preening prettyboy like Cruise play him is not gonna put that across.

  39. There is a good scene in the JR movie where the well-endowed blonde says something like “You’ve got blood on your shirt” and suggests that he change, but Reacher succinctly imparts that he only owns the one shirt, vagabond-style. It’s one part where it conveys that “quirky and awkward and oddly innocent like an old hermit who lives alone in a shack down by the river” vibe. And he’s further shown to be socially detached when he refuses to seduce the lead lady, or the underage other lady, despite having the perfect opportunity to do so. I’m for it.

    I don’t know what “preening” is, but Cruise is good at whatever he’s doing in this movie. I would never ever discourage him from doing more roles & movies like this, so long as the quality of the scripts continues to be so high.

  40. I’m always the first to complain about action films being castrated by PG 13 ratings but REACHER never felt like that to me. It felt pretty damn dark, especially the opening sniper bit, The Zec’s backstory and also the fight against Varro at the end. Sure they cut away when Cruise does his finishing move, but I’ve seen shit like that in R rated movies as well. You know and feel exactly what is being done to the guy. In fact, I somewhat feel this should probably have gotten an R rating, not for what is shown, but for the feel of it.

  41. preen (prn)
    v. preened, preen·ing, preens
    a. To smooth or clean (feathers) with the beak or bill.
    b. To trim or clean (fur) with the tongue, as cats do.
    2. To dress or groom (oneself) with elaborate care; primp.
    3. To take pride or satisfaction in (oneself); gloat.
    1. To dress up; primp.
    2. To swell with pride; gloat or exult.

    I just meant that Cruise, whose work I usually enjoy, is arguably the vainest actor of all time, only ever choosing roles that show how awesome he is at every single little thing a human being can do and still look handsome and buff doing it. Reacher, on the other hand, is the world’s least vain character. He buys whatever clothes are cheap and wears them until they’re dirty, then he throws them out and buys more. He looks like a bum most of the time. He eschews rank, property, and status symbols of all kinds. He doesn’t even work out; he’s big and powerful because he was born that way, not because he wants to look ripped.

    Point being, even if Cruise were 6′ 5″ he’d still be the world’s absolute worst choice for Reacher. I’ll still see the movie, though, because it sounds like a decent meat-and-potatoes action flick, the kind I like. But I’ll pretend he’s playing somebody else. John Racker or something

  42. Ah, I know that feeling, wanting to sub out a character for a more believable un-character to allay your cognitive dissonance.
    You will like JR, especially if you’re able to watch it as just an advanced episode of CSI with escalated chases & violence.

    Cruise does get fucked up in a lot of his roles. His characters, even the perfect hero types, fail pretty regularly. He hits rock bottom a lot for “the vainest actor of all time.”

  43. One thing in the novel that maybe the REACHER movie might improve upon: it does take Reacher a frustratingly long time in ONE SHOT to twig that hey, there’s a theoretic possibility that this guy they have in custody is innocent, it wouldn’t contradict the laws of physics or anything. And I gather from the trailer that the movie skims right through that and gets to the point.

    There’s a conceit in the books that Reacher’s a deductive genius who can work out ridiculous stuff like exactly which motel in the state an escaped fugitive is heading for. This is a lot of fun when his chain of reasoning is actually plausible, and it’s even fun when his logic is foaming-at-the-mouth nuts, but it also makes for annoyance when this genius doesn’t realise something the reader figured out 50 pages back, because Lee Child’s not ready to take the plot there yet.

  44. Yeah, I guess. Maybe I’m just still mad at Cruise because the rest of the world still doesn’t see what a horrible, empty piece of shit MISSION IMPOSSIBLE GHOST IN THE PROTOCOL is.

  45. That reply was to Mouth.

    Matt: The worst case of that was in whichever one (the titles are so generic that they all run together) was about all these female military officers who get drowned in green paint in their bathtubs. It was blatantly obvious by page 50 who the killer was and what method was being used to essay the crimes, but Child held out until the very end for Reacher to figure it out and (I think) even used italics for the big reveal like the last line of a Mike Hammer novel. Other than that, though, the plots are generally so convoluted and based on minutely described timetables of opportunity that I rarely bother to even try to keep up with them. I just trust that Reacher knows what he’s doing and that sooner or later somebody’s going to get a shotgun blast to the melon.

  46. Mr. M, I feel the exact same way about MIGP, but I agree with Mouth on JR. Tom is not the physical embodiment of Jack Reacher as he is portrayed in the books, but his take on Reacher is a good one and it is Cruise’s best work since COLLATERAL. Also, JR is not a shameless BMW commercial like MIGP was.

  47. You know, you guys have convinced me to take back my PG-13 rating whine. I’d go into exactly why but it’s boring.

    I do still stand by Cruise being miscast and the story being derivative of other, better films, but thinking about it a little more, there’s a few things I liked (seeing Werner Herzog and Robert Duvall pop up, mostly).

    I still – and will always – hate MIGP, though.

  48. The Original... Paul

    February 1st, 2013 at 1:11 pm

    Majestyk – I wasn’t a fan of “Ghost Protocol” at all; but, compared to its immediate predecesssor, it’s positively imaginative. Honestly, as underwhelming as it was, I was positively relieved about how well it turned out in comparison to “MI:3”.

    Anyway, Jack Reacher… Crustacean Hate is absolutely right about the writing of Pike’s character (which is a little bizarre given that the overall standard of writing seems to be pretty good). I think she COULD have worked better than she did, though, if she’d been played by… anybody else. Hell, Megan Fox would’ve done a better job. (Yeah, I am SO over Rosamund Pike. Maybe if I see one of her better films, I’ll “get” her, but right now my entire experience of her is “Doom”, “Die Another Day”, and “Jack Reacher”. Not exactly any star-making turns right there.)

    And as for the Cruise, I’m absolutely on Majestyk’s team on this one. I made this point in great detail on the forums, but I’ll repeat it briefly here: his size and stature aside, he looked WAY too clean. I couldn’t buy him from the start as a “drifter”. And when the motel owner points out his room when asked “Who could kill a girl in one punch” and says “You’ll understand”, I didn’t. Cruise absolutely cannot do “intimidating”. In two of what are arguably his best films, he plays different versions of “invisible man” characters. That’s what he does well.

    Having said that, when he’s doing the “detective” Jack Reacher, he’s convincing. I just don’t buy that Cruise’s Reacher would ever choose to employ the methods that he does employ when it comes to getting the facts that he needs.

  49. The Original... Paul

    February 1st, 2013 at 2:03 pm

    Also “Reacher” has a really great pair of villains in Werner Herzog and Jai Courtney. Just thought I’d add my two cents on that one.

  50. Paul, I disagree with yyou about MI3. I think MI3 is the best in the series. It has the best villain of the series, and it handles all the usual themes and clichés of the MI franchise in a much more clever way than the other films. Really I think the MI franchise is pretty tired in general. I do agree that Cruise is miscast as JR, but Cruise’s Reacher works as its own thing and I would prefer he make a Reacher film every few years instead of a MI film. Reacher is a much better character then Ethan Hunt, and Cruise can age with the role.

  51. Vern, talking of Parker’s personality, have you seen the new TV series BANSHEE. That guy is so Parker even Lee Marvin would have had trouble taking him down.

  52. Just checked out Banshee from you guys recommendation. The pilot was indeed fantastic I thought. Very good considering what channel has it. The character is very Parker-ish like you stated.

  53. I caught Im Schatten on TV recently – it’s solid, low-key and close to what I imagine real, everyday criminal life is probably like, but I do admit to being a bit disappointed by the fact that, in my eyes, it lacks a proper payoff. I realize that this is intentional, that it’s part of the film’s naturalism. But still, some catharsis would’ve been nice.

    Either way, I’m looking forward to Vern’s review of the film.

  54. The Undefeated Gaul

    May 30th, 2013 at 4:49 am

    Saw this yesterday. After reading your review I wasn’t in a hurry but as a Statham completist I want to watch everything the guy does eventually (except maybe when he did the voice of the CGI garden gnome). I was surprised by how much I ended up liking it, it’s decent mid-level Statham in my opinion, better than crap like War or Transporter 3. Nice and gritty too, I like how messed up he gets throughout the film. The wounds seem like they actually hurt.

    Of course the plot is extremely simple and the bad guys have nothing to do, but Statham was really good. Really seems like he’s getting better at the ol’ acting. Ironically, he seemed more like an actual character here than he does in most of his other movies, even if that character is completely different from what he is in the books.

    Luckily for me, having never read any of the Parker books, I had the luxury of viewing this as just another Statham joint. I guess there is always a bitterness that comes from seeing an adaptation from a book you love. I understand, for me it happened with the first Percy Jackson film. Remember when you all fell over yourselves expressing your love for that film while I was the only one hating it because it deviates completely from the book?

    Yeah, take your time remembering, I’ll wait here.

  55. Between family, work and movies I had to stop reading books a while ago. I’m not saying that it’s a good thing, but it has apparently saved me a lot of grief.

  56. The Undefeated Gaul

    May 31st, 2013 at 6:50 am

    I’m not sure. Reading a book gives you more hours of joy than watching only the film of that book. The trick is to read the book but then resist the temptation of also watching the film adaptation afterwards, as that is what causes disappointment and grief.

    A difficult thing though, as reading the book makes you way more interested in seeing the film…

  57. I watch the movie first, then read the book. The movie will never be how you imagined the book, but the book will give added dimension to what you saw in the movie.

    Also, I’d rather give up work and family than books (movies are a Sophie’s Choice kind of impossible decision deal). There have definitely been times that I have. But I am an irresponsible and selfish bastard.

  58. I never read crime novels, and all the good writers (Bukowski, Kerouac, Kennedy Tool etc) are dead anyway, so it wasn’t that hard to give it up.

  59. Usually I like to read a book first because if I’ve seen the movie (or even know the cast of the movie) I have a hard time not picturing the actors as I’m reading the book. With Parker I can manage it though. Even though Lee Marvin is my favorite screen Parker the guy in my mind looks more like a monstrous half-brother of Mel Gibson.

  60. What about pre-op Parker? Maybe then he looked like a young Lee Marvin.

  61. And you can get some pretty weird Pictures in your head. I once read a whole James Bond book with the image of Ron Leibman in my head.

  62. I got around to renting this one and it as pretty bad but I have to admit to enjoying it more than I expected. It is marginal at best, and disappointing as a Parker film, but I don’t feel like I wasted my time watching it. Statham has done better films, but if you’re a fan you could do worse than PARKER. J-Lo could be cut out of most of the movie and it would be a better film for it. Not that her performance is terrible in it, but it feels like they expanded her character’s role and gave her more screen time than needed to justify having a name like J-Lo in the part. She has a number of long character moments that pop up from time to time that rob the plot of what little moment it has. I bet a good editor could recut this film and trim about 30 minutes and it would be pretty enjoyable.

  63. I always picture Parker as a younger Robert Forster, myself. This is about right:
    when it comes to adaptations, I read the newer books as I get then (though that’s mostly based on what happens to be in the library or I come across in bookstores, which are disappointingly lean with the Stark material), but with the earlier ones, I actually prefer to read the graphic novel adaptations before I read the novels, for the same reasons Majestyk gives for watching movies first. Does it seem more like Parker would be better suited to having a TV series than a movie series? You could approach it different ways. Like as mini-series or broadly adapting the books into a proper ongoing series. The Hunter/Man With The Getaway Face/The Outfit for instance could fill one season and easily fit into 3 acts- origins of Parker’s beef with the Outfit and first scuffle, then getting his face changed and pulling that bank truck job and that leading to him being ratted out to the Outfit, and the final few episodes are his retaliation with all his buddies. Could work as a 10-12 episode thing. And maybe the right people could adapt the other books and create original stories and weave it all into an interconnected narrative. Of course the fucking insistence for them to keep trying to humanise Parker is an issue, but with an ongoing series, you could give the audience that sort of relatibility with characters like Grofeld and Ed Mackey and Claire being recurring or regular characters.

  64. There was actually a cable Parker series in the works at one point, but this was I think around the time when only The Sopranos had happened, there wasn’t as much of a precedent for that kind of thing as there is now. I think it could work really well if the right people did it.

    Remember that Ray Liotta heist show that never even got a full season? I could see it being a little like that.

  65. All this talk about Parker and heist stories convinced me it was about time to see CHARLEY VARRICK again. I fucking love this movie. Easily Walter Matthau’s best, and then add director Don Siegel in top form, Joe Don Baker in his prime (between WALKING TALL and THE OUTFIT) and a really good script = a masterpiece.

  66. Taylor Hackford’s masterpiece is his marriage to Helen Mirren.

    As for Parker, well, at least i still have POINT BLANK to admire and be at awe at and the PAYBACK’S DIRECTOR’S CUT to enjoy a more contemporanean take on the character.
    POINT BLANK is so, so, so good! The movie is like a miracle of filmmaking.

  67. Michael Shannon is probably the actor who most perfectly would fit the physical description of Parker as depicted in the book THE HUNTER, in my opinion. He’s described as being very tall and big, like a bear. His hands alone are intimidating enough to scare most people that comes in contact with him. Shannon is very tall and he looked incredibly intimidating in BOARDWALK EMPIRE, specially in the first two seasons, now imagine him even more muscled. And he’s the master of the unsmile.

  68. CrustaceanHate

    June 3rd, 2013 at 1:24 am

    Wow, Michael Shannon would be perfect.

  69. Shannon is good. I’m going to pull a curveball and suggest Liev Shreiber.

  70. Shannon is a pretty good gone, though I think there may be a bit too intense for Parker. The character’s very controlled and when he gets violent it’s always for a reason, not out of anger, and Shannon I think may be typecast a little as lunatics. Also, Parker’s meant to be able to blend in when he needs to and act like a regular guy while Shannon does look naturally creepy for some reason.

  71. Amusing interview with Jason Statham.

    That HUMMINGBIRD film looks pretty good, actually.


  72. You know what? I finally saw this and I actually liked it as a generic “don’t fuck with Jason Statham” movie. I don’t know what it has to do with the book, I assume nothing, but as a vehicle I like seeing him kick everybody’s ass like old school Seagal with no real obstacle. More than HOMEFRONT, more memorable than THE MECHANIC.

  73. I got the latest graphic novel adaptation, SLAYGROUND yesterday, which is a very good read, if a little bit of a quick one, because so much of it is without dialogue or narration. But it’s a fine idea for a story, putting Parker in a confined area and having him battle the odds like DIE HARD(or maybe more like HOME ALONE, because it’s during winter and he sets up traps) and I like once again how it does things only this media could do, actually including the theme park’s information leaflet as a gate-fold. It also includes the short story adaptation of THE SEVENTH (or “The 7eventh” as it’s called here) which I guess was done to make up for how short the main story is. I understand it’s a reprint from an earlier special edition collection of the graphic novels though.

  74. Slayground is the most out of character Parker novel I’ve read. It’s not my favorite, but it’s a cool idea to take Parker and put him into an action movie, sneaking around picking off guys silently. It’s also cool because (SPOILER) the money gets lost and he comes back to try to find it in a later book.

    I figured it would make a better movie than book, but of course the movie they made has almost nothing to do with the book other than the armored car robbery at the beginning.

    The Seventh is a good one and was made into a good movie called The Split. Jim Brown’s character is not completely Parker-like but otherwise it’s pretty faithful and has a great ensemble cast.

  75. I’m reviewing THE OUTFIT as the last movie of 2013 on my homepage, and started wondering what Parker really looks like. On the big screen he’s been played by Anna Karina, Lee Marvin, Michel Constantine, Jim Brown, Robert Duvall, Peter Coyote, Mel Gibson and Jason Statham, so there’s not much help there. Anyone?

  76. Here’s what Westlake had to say about that:

    Question: Because of the John Boorman film of The Hunter, Point Blank (1967), a lot of people imagine Parker as looking like Lee Marvin. How close is that to the man you imagine when you sit down to write?

    Westlake: Usually I don’t put an actor’s face to the character, though with Parker, in the early days, I did think he probably looked something like Jack Palance. That may be partly because you knew Palance wasn’t faking it, and Parker wasn’t faking it either. Never once have I caught him winking at the reader.


  77. Jack Palance, huh? That’s a face it would be hard to live up to. Of the ones I’ve seen Duvall’s still my favorite. But that’s probably because THE OUTFIT is one of my favorite films.

  78. Just finished reading an amazing Westlake book called KAHAWA. Anyone else ever read it? It’s about a team of criminals trying to steal a train filled with coffee out from under Idi Amin. Great procedural with an outraged moral conscience about the injustices in Uganda.

  79. I’m not even familiar with the Parker character or books (other than having watched Payback), but this movie was a huge disappointment all around. Lopez and Statham have no chemistry; she seems like her and her overbearing mom are written as comic relief, but they don’t actually do anything funny. Bobby Canavale gotta pay some bills apparently. Why is he in this? Why are Chiklis and Collins in this? It’s been a long time since i’ve seen people this famous have this little character development. Where did Nick Nolte go? The movie just kind of reeks of reshoots and postproduction nonsense, especially since there’s a ton of Uwe Boll-style ADR’d exposition over aerial shots. I like when Statham sees Chiklis again it flashes back to the car fight earlier in the movie, just in case we forgot he shot him about 35 minutes ago.

    Taylor Hackford is actually a pretty decent director (I love Ray, the action sequence at the end of Proof of Life is great, and anyone who unleashed that MEGA performance out of Pacino in Devil’s Advocate is fine by me) but this is just a shoddily made movie. The whole thing really has a made-for-TV feel(not to be confused with DTV), despite tons of cursing and surprising gore. I will have to give this movie props based on two scenes though – the hotel fight is actually pretty good, and the scene in the hospital where the guy with the voicebox futilely cries for help while Statham chokes some poor guy out. Oh and the Lopez underwear scene, so sue me, that’s what it’s there for.

  80. Pacino’s always had a bit of Mega bubbling away under that calm surface. I watched HEAT again recently and thought it was one of his best performances ever. I remember he copped criticism for it, with some saying he should have used more of the restraint on display in DeNiro’s Mcauley, but it worked fine for me. I liked his unpredictability. The scene where the crew dumps the surveillance after Mcauley and Hannah have just had coffee, and Pacino calmly says “Does anybody know, where the fuck these guys are?” – I expected mega, but he downplayed it right there. And he switches on the mega when he’s grilling Hank Azaria about his relationship with Ashley Judd, and says, “Cause she’s got a (pause) GREAT ASS! And you got your head (pauses and thrust hips for effect) ALL THE WAY UP IT!” Gold. Just gold.

    (lets not mention SCENT OF A WOMAN and how his mega became a punchline. THE DEVILS ADVOCATE is where it’s at.)

  81. In Heat, Al Pacino’s mega-ness is all in character. He only does it when grilling informants, supposedly to keep them off balance. Mann claims this is something that he’s known detectives to do in real life.

  82. Finished Darwyn Cookes adaptation of THE HUNTEER and this might sounds like sacriledge, but I think it is a better version of the story than the book. The reason; the ending. Cooke seem to think that the ending was weak in the original. The reason might have been that Westlake rewrote the ending after having written that Parker gets arrested, but that the publisher wnated him to get away.

    My biggest gripe with the novel has been that tacked on heist , when Parker just as easily got have gotten away from the cops with the money. Cooke thankfully streamlines the two cops out of the narrative and the ending just works better as Parker escapes from the railroad yard.

    My abslolute favourite part of the graphic Novel, is Resnick nightmarish vision of the vengeful dark angel that is Parker ( A flaming two gun-fisted Parker which is fucking awesome) and then wakes up watching Parker crawl through his bed room window. That is a pretty terrifying situation. I loved it. Cooke manages to be expressionistic and nightmarish without losing what makes these things work.

  83. Finished Cooke´s THE OUTFIT. It is combined with the most important bits from THE MAN WITH THE GETAWAY FACE. I liked that he just skimmed that one as it is more of an in-between book between THE HUNTER and THE OUTFIT.

    Stark´s original is such a fun read and Cooke´s version is a lot of fun as well. He uses some images to great efffect. For instance involving Bronsons backstory with the Monopoly game. SOme of it is told through Monopoly-esque visuuals which is fun;
    “Destroy your enemies, advance to Go. Collect 200$”

    The many heists from the book I have a harder time to swallow. They were fun in the book and Cooke uses distorted images like they were some kind of fable being passed on word by mouth. And one of the times Cooke uses Starks whole text from the Cockatoo raid with occasional illustrations. I get it it is supposed to be framed like a cheap dime novel within the graphic novel. But I wasn´t really warm to it. I would have loved to see Cooke visually explain the heist geographically instead.

    But still a good one. And I am loving the artwork

  84. Um, you guys hear about this? Shane Black and Robert Downey Jr. are allegedly doing a Parker adaptation together.

    I don’t know how I feel about this.

    On the one hand, Black and Downey reuniting is like a gift from God for me, and them working on a classic crime series together is more than I ever could have dreamed. But…Parker? Really?

    Is there an actor alive excepting maybe Chris Pratt who is a worse choice for Parker? I really hope Downey’s just producing and maybe taking the role of Alan Grofield or something, because nothing about Parker suits any of Downey’s strengths. This is feeling like a real Monkey’s Paw situation here. It’s got me breaking my cardinal rule: Let Shane Black do whatever the fuck Shane Black wants, nerds.

  85. Oh, damn. I had not heard that. I also think Parker works against Black’s talent for dialogue (or the other way around). But as soon as I read your first sentence I thought the same thing – Downey better be Grofeld, not Parker.

  86. I think Black’s writing style would work great for Parker as long as it’s everyone around Parker who’s speaking the Black Speech and not Parker himself. It would be about on par with the tone of PAYBACK: ORIGINAL RECIPE, where every character is a quirky chatterbox except Porter.

  87. So the word on Twitter is that the script will primarily be by Anthony “THE NICE GUYS” Bagarozzi and Chuck “prospective DOC SAVAGE project” Mondry. So not pure undiluted Shane Black, though I expect it’ll still end up pretty Blackian.

    I kind of wish they were doing LEMONS NEVER LIE instead. The other Grofield books were parlour mysteries and breezy spy thrillers, but LEMONS is absolutely vicious, and Downey would be great in the role. I hope at least that they’re doing one of the books where Parker’s part of a team.

  88. Thank you for the recommendation, Matthew. I have read most Parker books but I have actually not read the Grofeld books, because what I’d heard was what you just said — that they were spy thrillers with lighter tones, and that wasn’t as interesting to me. But now I’ve looked up ‘Lemons Never Lie’ and it sounds great. I just paid the 10 bucks for the Kindle version.

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