For things at a common destination, there is a common path. Cormac McCarthy wrote that deep inside No Country for Old Men, and it is a line that best explains the efforts of Joel and Ethan Coen. They prepare McCarthy’s piece for consumption about as stringently and coldly as Anton Chigurh acts in the novel. A fine quality to possess for any adaptation, but The Coen Brothers managed it time and time again. Their work on No Country for Old Men is one that settled well not just with those self-proclaimed cinema buffs, but with general audiences also. It, like The Dark Knight and Fight Club, is part of a select group well-loved by most and mocked by some for being that nice, comfortable line between film-bro and film-buff.
Springing to mind immediately are the immortal words of Tommy Lee Jones, uttered in disgust to cast member Jim Carrey. “I will not sanction your buffoonery”. If Jones does not have to sanction it, then why must audiences? Comical stuff. But that is Batman Forever, a feature that cannot take itself seriously because director Joel Schumacher dared to touch close to the Adam West influences. Icarus he is not. Flying too close to that line means there is a rift between what Schumacher wants to try out as a comical feature and what newcomer to the Caped Crusader series Val Kilmer wants to do with a performance that, if handled right, could offer much depth.
What is consistent and almost inevitable with adaptations of presidential terms is that they live or die entirely on who portrays the incumbent. Lincoln does well to draw Daniel Day-Lewis into the fold. So great an opportunity it is for director Steven Spielberg to take on the life of the sixteenth President of the United States, the actual challenge of adapting Abraham Lincoln’s life and times in office is underrepresented. The highlight wheel whirs away, bagging Day-Lewis that inevitable Academy Award in the process. Lincoln will not struggle to win over those history buffs it so clearly appeals to, and it does segregate the market somewhat, casting out Oliver Stone and slapping his hands away from another adaptation of a monumentally interesting political figure.
Pensioners, controversially, are not allowed to head up missions beyond this planet. Damned be the rules, was presumably the response of legendary filmmaker Clint Eastwood. Space Cowboys sees four men not in their finest shape take on a mission to save the world. Relics from the Cold War found in space by relics from the planet Earth. But their ancient quest to fix satellites is based on the functionality of what these old pilots can learn not just from one another, but from pushing themselves to limits they never knew they had. Beyond the unnecessary need for this mission and for hiring four retired pilots, Space Cowboys at least has a reason for breaching reality and sending these men into space.
As soon as those choked-out jazz notes hit the streets and the American voice comes out of the English radio, it is clear to see the inevitable path Stormy Monday will take. America Week takes place, whatever that may be, as a reason for so many Americanisms to take place. It is surely the effect director Mike Figgis has. He is not comfortable in his own skin, clamouring for that route to Hollywood that every creative must surely dream of. It worked for him, but at what cost? Slick and sleek, with the American invasion of Newcastle in full swing, there is a lack of representation of the area it looks to depict. Sean Bean comes close, Sting too, but how they swindled their way into this late-80s thriller is beyond me.
In the years that followed the drawn-out end of the Vietnam War, filmmakers looked to capture both the hellscape America had caused and also the emotional, long-term impact it had paired an entire generation with. It had tarnished a relationship between government and people, which was strained at the best of times. This impact would be felt filtering through generations of those that had been affected by the war in Vietnam. Not just to those who had served, but to those around them also. Cinema was rife with these experiences and stories. Taxi Driver alluded to it, Forrest Gump accepts the Hollywood appeal of such a tear-jerking story, but it is Rolling Thunder that looks into the mindset of prisoners of war. Understanding the impact it has on their psyche to be in confinement, and suddenly brought back to the western world.
Detailing what would happen if John Rambo had child maintenance bills to pay, This Park is Mine is a relatively forgotten action film from the mid 1980s. I assume there’s a whole slew of reasons this one been forgotten. From its made to television nature to its frankly overdone premise, there can’t be all that much to the film. Even with those restrictions, I went in hopeful of a moderately tolerable time where I’d see Tommy Lee Jones shoot, scream and sprint his way through Central Park after having a will left for him by his former Vietnam buddy.
The flagrant bashing and realisations of the watered down First Blood storyline doesn’t quite take off as well as it should. Director Steven Hillard Stern wastes no time getting into the action, and within ten minutes we’re planted firmly in Central Park with Mitch (Tommy Lee Jones) taking full control of the area. He does so because his friend was planning on doing it, and then died within the opening moments of the film. These aren’t spoilers, if anything it’s a startlingly decent excuse as to why there are automatic machine guns, claymores and explosives hidden away in a sewer inside of New York’s famous park.
A handful of scenes look to highlight the real message of This Park is Mine, and how they don’t make men like they used to. The veteran that takes over Central Park is a league above those thin-lipped talk show hosts. That’s not a criticism from me, it’s a vague line of dialogue in a sea of action quips, delivered with the unwavering conviction of a serious drama. Doubling down on the simplicity of its script by presenting it to us as a near-theatrical, farcical affair is rather entertaining to see. Pairing up a need to have some underlying message and criticism is all well and good, but you can’t have that with accidental one-liners. It creates a relatively dense tone and the movie struggles to keep up with this at times.
Dumb fun, that’s the best you can get out of This Park is Mine. Stern knows it, Lee Jones knows it and just about everyone else that dishes out bawdy B-Movie lines of dialogue know it too. Exceptionally driven in being a super serious action piece, while at the same time offering up a wry smile and a couple of oddly hilarious or even charming scenes.