❉ An over-the-top, so-bad-it’s-good curio starring a young Tommy Lee Jones.
The Park is Mine, a low-budget Canadian production, which was based on the Stephen Peters novel and was released on HBO in 1985, was directed by Steven Hilliard Stern, a helmer with a laundry list of small screen credits, and basically plays like a riff on the First Blood scenario, but nowhere near as strong. But, due to the presence of a young Tommy Lee Jones and the central conceit of the narrative, there are definitely enough oddball antics to turn this into a bombastic and entertaining curiosity piece for many viewers, especially those who have a fondness for genre flicks from this time period. There’s an earnest quality to the entire project which cements the movie with a sense of seriousness despite the outlandish set-up.
Jones is a disillusioned Vietnam veteran who follows the meticulously laid out plans that have been left for him by his buddy who has recently committed suicide. It seems that his friend has rigged all of Central Park with explosives and booby-traps and has stashed heavy artillery all throughout the area, in an effort to take the park itself hostage, in order to raise awareness about the plight of the veteran and the horrors of war. But don’t let the rather amazing one-sheet fool you; The Park is Mine isn’t very good. In fact, it’s downright amateurish at times, crass all throughout, and totally not up to the psychological implications that the screenplay seems interested in exploring in the most juvenile of ways.
The over-the-top scenario is played straight, so as a result, the inherent ridiculousness shines through in nearly every scene. The action sequences do have a certain blunt effectiveness, but it’s just that the story is so absurd that none of it is ever remotely believable. And yet, it entertains in that “so-bad-it’s-good-when-it’s-late-at-night” fashion. Jones is commanding as all get-out in the lead role, but the character is a total loose cannon, and his decision to carry through with this daredevil plan happens so quickly as if to inspire chuckles. Throw in a macho mercenary subplot and evil city officials and you have all the ingredients for something that the Cannon Group mysteriously didn’t have their name attached to as producers.
The always awesome Yaphet Kotto was hilarious in a supporting role, and the always-welcome Helen Shaver had a couple of ridiculous scenes as an aggressive reporter trying to score the story of a lifetime. Buried within the shoddy filmmaking lies a potentially potent allegory about battle stress and the challenging process of societal reintegration, but this was not a project to do any major emotional or thematic digging. Bizarrely enough, the film features the sublime sonic talents of Tangerine Dream. Kino Lorber Studio Classics has released The Park is Mine on Blu-ray, with the disc retaining the original 1.85:1 aspect ratio (the transfer is adequate given the source material), and there’s an audio commentary from Nathaniel Thompson, and theatrical trailers included as special features.
❉ ‘The Park Is Mine’ (1986) is out now on Blu-ray from Kino Lorber Entertainment. Running Time: 102 mins: https://www.kinolorber.com/product/the-park-is-mine-blu-ray
❉ Nick Clement is a journalist for Variety Magazine and motion picture screenplay consultant, as well as a critic for websites We Are Cult and Back to the Movies. He wrote the introduction to the book Double Features: Big Ideas in Film, which was published by The Great Books Foundation, and is currently working on a book about the life and work of filmmaker Tony Scott. He lives in Connecticut with his wife and son.