“Right now I think the honourable thing is to be a criminal.”
Palpable anger courses through Punishment Park, a condemnation of an American system that continuously oppresses the weak, the noble, and the minority, Peter Watkins’ mockumentary is unfortunately hampered by repetition, a lack of development, and nonstop rhetorical dialogue.
Most of this is taken up by tribunal-interrogation scenes, intercut occasionally with brutal but redundant scenes of the titular park, so this ends up consisting mostly of dialectics, speeches made and speeches taken, Watkins’ ideas thoroughly explored but dramatically drained. He’s got a great premise here, something that could work wonders in a short story, or maybe even as part of an anthology like Black Mirror, but not enough to fill an entire feature, at least in the way Watkins has approached it.
It’s a shame, too, because the politics here are still potent and relevant. And I always love when I can feel the filmmaker’s anger through the screen.
But I was done by about 45 minutes in.