Keeping the ‘gems you haven’t heard of’ theme going we’re heading into unknown territory for a tall tale filled with pure pulp pleasure – welcome to Forgotten Friday Flick! This week’s selection is surprisingly all about the forgotten, focusing on a former military man who goes to some drastic measures to remind people in power that selfless soldiers will not be ignored. Featuring an iconic actor in his early days and one sensational score to boot, guns, grenades, tripwires and camouflage all work in tandem to prove that…The Park Is Mine!
Mitch is a man who having problems adjusting to life back home in America. As former Vietnam vet with the US Army, the ailing military man can’t hold a menial job, is estranged from his wife and son whom he owes support and feels that his country has turned its back on him. But one day an old army buddy who has just committed suicide while battling cancer sends him a strange letter. Seems before he was diagnosed he set a plan in motion involving the taking over of New York’s Central Park by non-lethal means in order to illicit attention and respect for the sacrifices made by his fellow soldiers and with the letter has passed it on to Mitch. Weary and at the end of his rope, Mitch decides to ultimately pick up where his pal left off and proceeds to isolate himself inside the park for a period of three days leading to Veteran’s Day. But with a camera toting female reporter in tow, a gaggle of law enforcement hot on his heels and even a few soldiers for hire thrown into the mix, can Mitch keep both the park and his own sanity under control?
If the above description for The Park is Mine sounds a tad cheesy it’s because frankly it is. Designed merely as a fluffy piece of pure cinematic escapism, there may not be a mind blowing dramatic message at the forefront, but there’s nevertheless a ton of fun fromage within the flick. From the great gamey territory securing tactics (Mitch uses everything from spiral barbed wire to large hidden sink holes!) to the highly improbable moves of the mayor’s office to rid the park of his presence (let’s hire a former Viet Cong to get him!), the seemingly silly story framework here is merely used as an outer shell to house a lot of cool explosions, gunplay and general military mayhem that’s a hoot. Not that there aren’t at least a few moments of quiet character reflection, but The Park is Mine knows exactly what kind of flick it is and makes no apologies for keeping the surface stuff simple and savory. (Director Steven Hilliard Stern even employs the soothing sounds of 80’s icons Tangerine Dream to keep the movie mood going!)
Of course it helps that Mitch himself is played by an early in his career Tommy Lee Jones, who brings some weird and oddly different faces to his askew army tough guy. There’s the calm character (he seems fairly normal at the beginning!), the skilled soldier (his tactical attention to detail is impressive!) and even the fanatical freak (he has a couple of moments where he looks like he’s gonna lose it – big time!) that all come out to play to keep Jones’s Mitch from being anything but a one-note wonder. (He also made the five-star Black Moon Rising around the same time and created another too-cool-for-school character!) He’s nicely flanked by Helen Shaver as a tough reporter tag-along (you can tell this was the 80’s – there’s an unneeded topless shot!), the surly Yaphet Kotto as an intelligent policeman and especially Jeffrey Comb’s look-a-like Peter Dvorsky as the slimy Deputy Mayor, but of course the heavy lifting is all up to Jones’s portrayal of the lead war wacko and he definitely delivers.
Not exactly brimming over with complete originality this is a film that definitely has roots in the Rambo movies, not to mention cashing in on the whole ‘extreme message movie’ phase (see Turk 182!), but its own beauty lies in the fact that it never strays from its simple story and fully commits no matter how ridiculous things get. (It definitely carries the Roger Corman seal of approval!) The Park is Mine is a movie that makes the inane sane by wisely keeping the audience entertained.