Theme Song: Have you ever been stuck talking to one of those people who are really into Tangerine Dream? It’s the worst. They divide their discography up with terms like “golden age” and “blue period.” They’re so full of absolute horseshit.
Tangerine Dream threw some studio leftovers together and called it a soundtrack. People who enjoy this music should be avoided at all costs.
Interesting Dated References: People acting like they cared what one single Vietnam veteran had to say; Police officers using lingo like, “takin’ junk,” in reference to doing drugs.
Best Line: None.
Social Context: The Park Is Mine is based on a book about a Vietnam vet who is no longer able to function in society and tired of being pushed around. Yes, this is a second-tier take onFirst Blood, but made for television and way more mid-80s.
Summary: A despondent, suicidal, cancer-ridden Vietnam veteran named Mike jumps off a building and dies. After the funeral, friend and fellow veteran, Mitch (Tommy Lee Jones), returns home to find a letter from Mike.
As detailed in the letter (and via voiceover), Mike explains to Mitch that he stashed a full assault arsenal in Central Park and whenever Mitch feels like it, he should go take the park hostage to let society know it can’t ignore the struggle of the veteran.
So Mitch goes to check it out. Continuing with the voiceover, Mike even explains how he has the park fully rigged with explosives that just need simple activation, as well as stashed reserves of blank ammunition so “nobody gets hurt.” Essentially Mike has set up a turnkey business operation for despondent sociopaths. Unfortunately, this oversimplification of how the park is going to be taken and Mitch’s subsequent decision to take said park are a little underwhelming.
The two events that throw Mitch over the edge? First, some cops tell him to stop sneaking around in the bushes of the park. Second, his ex-wife won’t let him see his son because he shows up unannounced. Both of these don’t seem like that unreasonable of requests, but it’s enough to make Mitch enact the plan.
At nightfall Mitch calls the police dispatch to announce the park is his. He makes a few things explode along the entrance of Central Park, and then calls police dispatch again to demand everyone stay out of the park for 72 hours.
The police set up a command center outside the park and call in Yaphet Kotto, who plays Sergeant Eubanks. Any time a hairy situation arises, Kotto should be the first one any of us call. He goes in with his police team, but they are repeatedly thwarted by very visible razorwire, three foot deep trenches, and far-off, non-lethal explosions. Overcome with firepower, they retreat.
In the morning, Mitch looks out over the park and realizes it is totally empty, that is to say, the park is his. Later he calls the New York Times to announce he’ll be broadcasting on FM radio later in the day. If you were taking an area of land hostage in 1986 and wanted to reach a ton of people with your message, FM radio was the way to go. Please, let’s not question how Mitch has managed to obtain fully-capable FM broadcasting equipment. We’ll just assume Mike, the dead, cancer-ridden mastermind, set it all up in advance. I should mention that Mitch is covered in camo and black face paint, yet is wearing a blue Yankees hat. All this effort into hiding himself, but then he’s got a bright-blue hat on the most vulnerable part of his body.
Mitch begins his FM rant by defending his actions and saying he hasn’t hurt anyone. He says he’s tired of being ignored and bossed around (making reference to the minor scolding he got for creeping around in the bushes). Then he becomes suddenly socio-politically motivated and starts talking about how people need to take control of their lives and assures them one person can make a difference. He also reassures everyone he’ll leave the park on Veterans Day (approx. 48 hours) so that, assumedly, everyone can go back to jogging and shooting drugs there.
Later that night, nosy reporter Valery (Helen Shaver) decides to sneak into the park. Once inside she immediately falls asleep on some rocks until the next morning when Mitch wakes her up. Since she has a video camera, he realizes she can record him telling her all about his troubles.
Enjoying his new-found socio-political beliefs, Mitch again goes on the FM radio and recites newspaper articles about suicides, abuse victims, and lonely people. While all this is going on, Kotto and the deputy mayor bicker about how to handle things. Eventually they hold a press conference while some other reporter does vox populi interviews.
One of the dudes who claims his name is Elton Costanza, looks exactly like my dad’s friend Bone who always used to hang out at our house in the 80s with his shirt off (non-erotically). So Mitch continues to rant to his reporter friend as she records, and the deputy mayor decides the best means of attack is to send two trained Viet-cong killers into the park to confuse and attack Mitch (who up until this point, they repeatedly clarify, has been totally non-violent).
The general population starts to take Mitch’s side, even going so far as to print up, “THE PARK IS MINE,” shirts for the Veterans Day parade the following morning. No word on if Mike the dead, cancer-ridden mastermind, set up the printing and distribution of the shirts in advance. Overall, it seems like nobody really even cares about the park, or it’s as if they have other parks to go to in the meantime.
While the parade is going on, Mitch and the reporter avoid the two killers. Eventually Mitch shoots one of the killers in self defense. When the other killer spots the nosy reporter and draws a bead on her, Kotto runs in and shoots the shit out of him. More explanation isn’t really required because it’s pretty uneventful and I can’t remember anyway because sometimes the drinking problem I claim to have conquered really sneaks up on me.
Then Mitch walks out of the park at dusk and is arrested. Kotto asks him if he thinks he made a difference, and Mitch answers in the affirmative.
Despite taking place in Central Park, The Park Is Mine was filmed almost entirely in Toronto. In fact, Mitch’s apartment is located in Hotel Waverly, one of the oldest flop houses in Toronto. It looks like the only scenes filmed in New York were some street and helicopter shots. The film was directed by Steven Hilliard Stern, who also directed Rolling Vengeance.
Poster and Box Art: Although nicely rendered, the stance of Tommy Lee Jones’ character throws everything out of whack. The logistics of emerging from brush, firing a rifle, and tossing a grenade, all while looking in the opposite direction is totally impossible.