Monday, November 15, 2010

THE PARK IS MINE (1986) - Steven Hilliard Stern


I used to think there couldn't be a more ridiculous Vietnam vet movie than the relentlessly hyperbolic (though highly enjoyable) Reagan-era bullet-fest that is Rambo: First Blood Part II. I was wrong. It's called The Park is Mine, a mid-80s made-for-HBO movie that tries to have its First Blood and eat its Dog Day Afternoon too all within the confines of Central Park.

Tommy Lee Jones plays a disillusioned vet who receives a suicide note from a recently deceased army buddy asking him to carry out the dream mission he couldn't get to before the Big C hit. Namely, take Central Park by force 72 hours before Veteran's Day with some strategically placed Claymore mines, some hidden grenade launchers in the Bramble and a coil of bobwire. Then clear the park and make a call to the mayor's office telling them, you know, "the park is mine."

Cue the scrappy female reporter (Helen Shaver) with a huge Betacam sneaking into Park in cammies to break the story. Cue the world-weary police chief (Yaphet Kotto) advising the mayor's staff just to leave Tommy Lee be to have his 72 hours -- "the man doesn't want to hurt anyone!" Cue the clueless city Commissioner obsessed with public opinion who sends in snipers, then ex-mercenaries and even entertains plans of strafing Central Park by helicopter with chemical agents. Oy vey! The man just wants a quiet Sheep's Meadow to himself for a few days. Let him be!

No such luck for Tommy Lee. His homegrown, "righteous" terrorist gets hit with every hostage movie cliche on the book, from the deluge of fevered phone calls to the mayor's office on Central Park emergency phones to the nagging ex-wife brought in to browbeat him back to reason. This is the first time I think I can say I've truly winced at a Tommy Lee Jones line reading. I would say he was just phoning it in, but I think it's obvious from the above pic.

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