Editor’s Note: Mission Park opens in limited release today, September 6th
Centering on the tale of four boyhood friends who choose alternate paths in life, Mission Park deals in an economy of violence and emasculation. There is a divide among the boys: two, Bobby (Jeremy Ray Valdez) and Julian (Will Rothhaar), are raised by Bobby’s father and follow the archetypical path of success: high school, college, career. With the exception of a rather major transgression early on, they follow the straight and narrow. The other two, Derek and Jason, take the gangbanger route: no high school graduation, guns and drug trafficking instead of a degree.
All of this is well and good save for the aforementioned transgression, wherein the four boys hold up a café, rob the register, and shoot the waitress. As she dies, the film wants us to believe that Jason is to blame for his orchestration and pilfering of the cash, but all four were involved. Yes, Bobby and Julian protest, but they still play lookout while Derek remains at Jason’s side as an enforcer, calling the other two “pussies”.
From here, we jump to Bobby and Julian’s high school graduation where we’re first introduced to the oft-repeated phrase, “after all we’ve been through”. Despite this apparent mantra that moors the boys to one another, none of them suffer any consequences, even though one argument presented against robbing the café is “we come here all the time; they’ll know it was us!”
Apparently, they won’t.
Each character clings to something intangible, but when they are physically present there is little substance, relegating exchanges to the sexual (Gina and Bobby), nostalgic (holding up the café), or vulgar (repeated attacks on one’s penis size).
Perhaps this is a commentary on isolation in their community. Perhaps it’s a reflection of some “kill or be killed mentality”, something that is also apparent in most of the exchanges throughout. Gina, Bobby’s girlfriend, is called pendejo by her mother, a woman whose first reaction to being hit with a toy thrown by her toddler is to turn a toy gun on him. Perhaps this is in jest, but it similarly mirrors Derek’s reaction when Julian strikes him – except this time, it’s a real gun.
Gina and Bobby’s relationship is similarly symbiotic. As soon as Bobby enters her room, she wraps her legs around him and they have sex, which is all well and good, but this is the bulk of their interactions. Going away to college for four years, Bobby has little interaction with Gina aside from gazing at her photo and buying her an engagement ring. She has little interaction with him and soon finds herself in lust with someone else. Each character clings to something intangible, but when they are physically present there is little substance, relegating exchanges to the sexual (Gina and Bobby), nostalgic (holding up the café), or vulgar (repeated attacks on one’s penis size).
All in all, the dynamics at play in the first half of the movie illustrate an interesting dynamic within this community, but this is soon lost to the cliché. At times, it’s unclear what director/writer Bryan Ramirez intends to do. Does he want to examine human interaction, or does he want to offer an amalgamated version of Sleepers, The Departed, and The Godfather? Each twist and turn has been seen before and each progression is borrowed from one or more of those films. There is nothing wrong with homage—though there is a very thin line between homage and lack of creativity—but each subsequent scene becomes more improbable and more forced than the one before it. To Ramirez’s credit, he tries to write his way out of some plot holes, but the exposition is not very convincing. Rather, it feels desperate.
At times, it’s unclear what director/writer Bryan Ramirez intends to do. Does he want to examine human interaction, or does he want to offer an amalgamated version of Sleepers, The Departed, and The Godfather?
For example, Bobby and Julian, after graduating college, both enroll in the FBI academy. And, the day before they graduate, they are given an assignment. Bobby is sent undercover to discover the identity of the mysterious Nadie, a name whose translation should hardly conceal the truth behind the moniker. Bobby and Julian are tagged for this assignment because Nadie is known to run with their childhood friends Derek and Jason (of course), but it seems a bit of a stretch to put two rookies—in the truest definition of the word—on this case since he is such a prime federal target. In an attempt to explain this, we are told that the FBI would need to use rookies so corruption in veteran departments could be weeded out, but this feels flimsy at best and only serves to make the situation doubly improbable.
If, in fact, a veteran agent is on Nadie’s payroll, as is suggested, then wouldn’t this agent be able to sniff out the emergence of another FBI agent? A quick search through the database would accomplish this, no? Also, it seems strange that not a modicum of information about Bobby and Julian enrolling at Langley is leaked to their former community. Sure, Bobby via voiceover tells us that only his father knew, but this seems unlikely. Supposedly, his relationship with Gina is ongoing despite her affair, but in the 21st Century, is it truly possible to be abjectly anonymous?
Despite the journey through mangled, Voltronned tropes, Mission Park shows moments of brilliance. The shots are well-thought out and the acting is far better than the lines that the actors deliver, except that Bobby cries too much without shedding any tears. If nothing else, Mission Park shows promise. It’s just very difficult to tell a tale of isolation through moments so often seen in other films.
[notification type=”star”]53/100 ~ MEDIOCRE. Mission Park shows promise. It’s just very difficult to tell a tale of isolation through moments so often seen in other films.[/notification]