An Upcoming Mark Wahlberg Thriller Could Launch The Franchise Jason Statham Failed To 11 Years Ago

By Padraig Cotter Published 1 day ago

Mark Wahlberg is teaming with Shane Black to adapt an iconic book character, which could kick off the franchise that Jason Statham failed to.

An Upcoming Mark Wahlberg Thriller Could Launch The Franchise Jason Statham Failed To 11 Years Ago


  • The upcoming Play Dirty will star Mark Wahlberg as anti-hero thief Parker, setting up a potential Parker movie franchise.
  • Previous adaptations of Donald E. Westlake's Parker novels struggled, with Statham's 2013 Parker film failing to launch a franchise.
  • Director Shane Black is leading the potential Parker movie franchise, promising a fresh take on the iconic character.


A new Mark Wahlberg thriller could launch the Parker franchise that Jason Statham failed to kick off in 2013. Wahlberg used to star in a fairly reliable output of R-rated action movies and thrillers, but in recent years, he's dialed back and focused on dramas and comedies like Father Stu or The Family Plan. This has been a welcome change of pace for the star because while his action output was fun, by the time he starred in movies like Mile 22, they began to feel a tad samey.

Wahlberg is set to find his onscreen mean streak again with the forthcoming thriller Play Dirty. This is also the next movie from director Shane Black (The Nice Guys), with Wahlberg playing the anti-hero thief Parker from the novels by Donald E. Westlake (AKA Richard Stark). In the new movie (via THR), Wahlberg's Parker teams with LaKeith Stanfield's actor/con artist Grofield as they plan a heist that pits them against the mob, a dictator and the world's richest man.

Mark Wahlberg's Play Dirty Could Launch The Series Jason Statham's Parker Failed To

Many actors have taken a crack at Parker

An Upcoming Mark Wahlberg Thriller Could Launch The Franchise Jason Statham Failed To 11 Years Ago

The novels have a loyal following, with Parker being an immoral anti-hero who is also oddly likable. Fans of Parker will know there have been many previous adaptations of the books, with the best known being Point Blank starring Lee Marvin and 1999's Payback with Mel Gibson. The latter two both adapted The Hunter, which was Parker's mean and lean book debut. Play Dirty isn't adapting any particular Parker novel, with Black's story pulling elements from different books.

Robert Downey Jr was originally set to play Parker in Play Dirty but later dropped out.

While Westlake was open to producers adapting his work, he refused to let them use the name Parker unless they committed to adapting all the books. This is why in Payback, for example, the character was renamed Porter. The first adaptation to actually use the name was Jason Statham's aptly titled Parker, which pulled from the novel Flashfire. Needless to say, Statham's Parker gets betrayed during a job and plans revenge against his former crew. Parker grossed over a tepid $46 million worldwide (via Box Office Mojo), and failed to launch a planned Parker 2.

Why Jason Statham's Parker Didn't Work

Parker fails to stand out in Statham's filmography


Parker was part of several Statham movies from this era that had trailers ending with him pointing a gun and saying a one-liner, such as Safe. The Jason Station action movies from this period start to blur together after a while, and the truth is, Parker is one of the actor's least interesting projects. Outside of a great supporting turn by Jennifer Lopez, Parker was far too generic, and it didn't even have memorable action sequences to compensate. The film also made the error of sanding the harsher edges off the title character.

Pretty much every adaptation has struggled with this since a direct translation of the Parker found in Westlake's source material would be offputting to most viewers. Parker is an anti-hero who truly only cares for himself, and is willing to use people or kill for his own gains. Statham's Parker softened these elements to make for a more appealing hero — which only served to make him less interesting.

Flashfire was a dull choice to kick off a potential Parker movie series, but it seems Play Dirty will avoid the same mistakes.

Parker also adapted Flashfire, which isn't one of the better novels in Westlake's series. It's a reasonably enjoyable, pulpy read, but little about it stands out. Compared to books like Slayground — which could be described as Die Hard in an abandoned amusement park — that mixed up the standard Parker formula, Flashfire is too straightforward. In short, Flashfire was a dull choice to kick off a potential Parker movie series, but it seems Play Dirty will avoid the same mistakes.

Play Dirty Could Be The First Parker Adaptation To Earn A Sequel

Westlake's dream of a Parker franchise could finally come true


Every Parker Movie Adaptation

Book Adapted

Lead Actor

Made in USA (1966)

The Jugger (1965)

Anna Karina as Paula Nelson

Point Blank (1967)

The Hunter (1962)

Lee Marvin as Walker

Pillaged (1967)

The Score (1964)

Michel Constantin as Georges

The Split (1968)

The Seventh (1966)

Jim Brown as McClain

The Outfit (1973)

The Outfit (1963)

Robert Duvall as Earl Macklin

Slayground (1983)

Slayground (1971)

Peter Coyote as Stone

Payback (1999)

The Hunter (1962)

Mel Gibson as Porter

Parker (2013)

Flashfire (2000)

Jason Statham as Parker

Of the many Parker adaptations in existence, none have earned a direct sequel, but Play Dirty could finally change that. Again, the movie isn't pulling from any one book but appears to be cherry-picking the best elements from the series. The odds of Wahlberg adapting every single Parker novel as the author wished are slim, but it could be the first adaptation that leads to a follow-up.

Parker is currently available to stream on DirecTV.

Black is a self-confessed fan of pulp crime fiction from the '60s and '70s — as can be seen in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang — and is the best person to oversee a potential Parker movie franchise. When Play Dirty was announced (via Deadline) the plan was to create a series of films and shows around the character for Amazon, so assuming the first entry performs well, more should follow.

Source: Box Office Mojo, Deadline

Director Taylor Hackford Release Date January 23, 2013 Studio(s) FilmDistrict Budget $31–35 million

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