The Film (3.5/5)
Vietnam Vet Mitch (Tommy Lee Jones) is at the end of his rope. His wife has left him with his only son, and he can’t hold onto a stable job. After attending the funeral of one of his war vet friends, he discovers that he committed suicide, but left Mitch the plans to a mine field hidden in Central Park. His friend also left behind a supply of weapons, so after Mitch is pushed too far, he snaps and takes Central Park hostage until Veterans day. Tensions rise as the Major tries to kill Mitch, and a photo journalist named Valery (Helen Shaver) breaks into the park. No matter what happens, Mitch has made it clear that The Park is his.
THE PARK IS MINE (1985) Is famous for being one of the first direct to Cable movies, made for HBO. So, while the film is indeed a TV movie, it looks and sounds like a theatrical blockbuster. The movie tells the story of a one-man army against the whole city of New York, But unlike FIRST BLOOD or any of the other crazed vet movies, PARK is a refreshing take, that uses the tropes but still pushes on. You get the clichéd scenes of members of a S.W.A.T group being disarmed one by one and you get the raising of the stakes with a helicopter shoot out, but here what’s impressive is the time between the action set pieces. Most of the movie is the reaction to Mitch, and planning on how to remove him from the park. The script also clearly points out the many ways Mitch starts mayhem without killing anyone, such as the different style clips, one is live bullets, the other blanks.
For a TV movie, PARK IS MINE has a huge scope with some truly cinematic photography which shows off huge amounts of the park and the choreographed action. One highlight is Jones diving around before landing against a tree with the helicopter dropping into frame on the side. The movie also has some harsh cursing and one scene of pointless nudity that seems to be dropped in as an afterthought. As for the script, itself, the massage of treating vets with respect never comes off as too preachy or flat. The view of going against the establishment doesn’t feel forced, and Jones delivers it with true emotion. The most cinematic element of the film is the dramatic and thrilling soundtrack by Tangerine Dream (THE KEEP, U.S version of Ridley Scott’s LEGEND). The score at times seems too close to their famous score for Michael Mann’s THIEF, overall, it’s velvety smooth with plenty of thrilling synth sounds and action beats.
The cast is full of great performances. Tommy Lee Jones (UNDER SEIGE) gives a wonderful layered performance and balances the crazy elements without losing his humanity. Helen Shaver (TREMORS 2) makes a likable emotional center and the audience’s surrogate. Yaphet Kotto (LIVE AND LET DIE) does the best he can do in his minor role, but still having him on screen adds depth. The most enjoyable actor in the movie was the Jeffery Combs like Peter Dvorsky (VIDEODROME) as the nasty aid Dix. Dvorsky is such an enjoyable slimy villain who tries to get Jones killed and only cares about his promotion. One of the most underrated of 80’s action films.
Audio/ Video (4/5)
THE PARK IS MINE comes with an English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 track. The sound mix is fine-tuned with some minor softness to the soundtrack by Tangerine Dream. The score itself is clear, but is over shadowed by some of the gun shot sound effects. The dialogue is clear and doesn’t have any sudden drop offs. Easy to read English subtitles are included.
The 1080p HD transfer looks a little too bright. The black levels are too bright and the rest of the film suffers from TV lighting. This gives most of the night time scenes an alien glow. The rest of the transfer is impressive, especially in the close-ups of Tommy Lee Jones, where you can count individual cuts on his face or the lines of grease paint. The whole movie has a natural level of grain. The level of texture of material is also impressive.
The main extra feature is the audio commentary with film historian Nathaniel Thompson. Thompson keeps the track lively with almost no dead air. He comes off as a nice guy with a very down to earth tone. The track has some echo in a few sections, but overall, it’s a great commentary. Also included is a trailer gallery with trailers for THE PARK IS MINE, BLOWN AWAY, THE PACKAGE, THE TAKING OF PELHAM ONE TWO THREE, REPORT TO THE COMMISSIONER, and BUSTING. The case also comes with alternate reversible cover artwork.
THE PARK IS MINE is a hidden gem waiting to be uncovered, and the good folks at Kino have made it easier to find on this handsome Blu-ray release. Highly Recommended.