If I ask you to name your favorite anti war movie, or name any anti war movie, what's the first thing that comes to mind? If you are a real cinephile it's probably one of Stanley Kubricks masterpieces like "Paths to Glory" or "Full metal Jacket". If you are more of a mainstream movie fan perhaps you think of Michael Moores "Farenheit 9/11" or Tom Cruise in " Born of the fourth of July". British or anglophile film fans may remember Sean Connery's heroic stand against the sadistic british army in "the hill", (The title refers to the manmade monument to their own sadism the british army has created to teach wayward soldiers a lesson, or murder them via sunstroke, whichever comes first ) How about an anti war B movie? Welcome , my friend, to "Punishment Park"
the plot: two groups of political prisoners, one group clearly modeled on the chicago 7, are given the choice of either going to prison for a long time or participating in something called "Punishment Park". This is a training excercise for reservists and other military to deal with the now out of control anti war movement. But we are soon aware that this "excercise" seems to be little more than a death trap for the prisoners. It sounds like a pretty typical sci fi "most dangerous " game" retread , but in fact there was an act
passed in 1950 that called for internment of dissidents as an anti communism measure and activists and war resisters were being imprisoned when Punishment Park was made. And is it not inconceivable that someone in our governent would get the great idea to cut down on prison populations and train the police state enforcers at the same time? There are people
who want to give illegal aliens citizenship for serving in iraq. (At the risk of buying in to the whole concept here too much, let me point out that one Vietnam veteran who read a draft of this review told me the draft board took whoever they could catch and the idea that they would care what a persons politics were is laughable.)
The other group we meet is still in the sentencing stage. All manners of mediocre left and right wing punditry are explored in the kangeroo courts as well meaning leftist platitudes and realistic but heartles right wing condemnations of said platitudes show the sad state of an America that has strayed from the constitution.
were the film just a "this is what we could become" left wing sci fi polemenic it would be pretty hard to recommend, but it's real value is as a study of a society torn apart by it's government's fear mongering and general expansion: into the world and it's own peoples lives. A great touch is the european press who film the entire thing, powerless to stop it. the police and military could care less abuot the footage they are going to the masses with as they know full well washington is well insulated from public opinion. some even chastise the film crew for simply wanting to make money off what becomes a rather violent story.
If you want to see a movie with a stellar cast, amazing cinematography and a well thought out story that has men attempting to balance their patriotism with concern for they and their fellow countryman's humanity ...check out the Hill. If you want to see a movie with none of those things but a great anarchic rebellious spirit don't miss "punishment park".