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How, then, is Jason Statham the screen's first Parker? Prior to Westlake's death in 2008, it was a precondition of selling Parker to the movies that the name "Parker" wouldn't be used without commitment to a series — so Jim Brown is McClain, Marvin is Walker, Gibson is Porter, Duvall is Earl Macklin, and, in 1983's unloved Slayground, Peter Coyote is Stone. To this can be added a slew of pseudo-Parkers unconnected to any source novel: Jim Jarmusch, who can be seen reading a Stark novel on an airplane in 1994's pseudo-documentary Tigrero, has acknowledged that his The Limits of Control owes a heavy debt to Stark. Michael Mann's favored theme of criminal professionalism is pure Parker, and in his 2004 Collateral, Tom Cruise wears the charcoal suit and attitude of Point Blank's Marvin.

As with Cruise's Jack Reacher, from Lee Child's thriller series, there would seem to be a lot riding on Statham's Parker, titled in the current all-or-nothing franchise-anchoring style. Accustomed to seeing the character softened by films, Parker aficionados collectively cringed at this Parker's declaration in the trailer: "I don't steal from people who can't afford it." But no bad movie could ruin Parker. There are 24 books to prove he's not so easily killed.

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