The Park is Mine
release year: 1986
viewing setting: home VHS, 6/29/04
synopsis: A highly-trained Vietnam vet, fed up with society, takes over Central Park to make a statement.
impressions: Yeah, it sounds corny...but it's surprisingly effective and fun. Basically, what we have here is a disillusioned guy who did a tough job and did it well for his country, then came home and got no respect or decent treatment at all. In the first fifteen minutes, we see him disturbed by a war buddy's suicide, scoffed at by his employer, screamed at by his shrill idiot of an ex-wife, and harassed for no reason by some NYPD cops. Combine this with said war buddy's idea (left in a post-death note, along with tons of equipment and firepower) and it isn't long before the guy has set explosives throughout the park, blown up its police station, driven everyone out, and issued a public warning that people are forced to listen to. They send in a SWAT team and he non-lethally makes mincemeat out of them. Normally - and especially in these days of terrorist acts - this plot and protagonist wouldn't get any sympathy from viewers. It works, though, because of two things: 1) the message: "I'm just trying to make you stop and think about some things, so leave me alone and I'll be gone in three days" and 2) Tommy Lee Jones' great performance.
things to watch for: when the mayor's office sends in two assassins to execute the protagonist
something this movie has that no other movie has: NYPD trying to re-take Central Park
acting: A pre-fame Tommy Lee Jones gives his character depth as well as seriousness; if you aren't rooting for him by the end, something's wrong with you. Yaphet Kotto is good as the SWAT leader who no one listens to, even though he has a better understanding of the situation than they do; he's also the voice of the viewer by the end, saying what needs to be said and then doing what needs to be done. Helen Shaver plays a stereotypical "I'll do anything for my story" reporter who has absolutely no concept of the danger posed by bullets or land mines, despite being warned repeatedly. The guy who played the deputy commissioner did a convincing job as an utterly selfish, amoral politician.
final word: This is well worth watching, with very few actual deaths, but make sure you can appreciate its message before you sit down with it.
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