A Murder in the Park DVD Review

     Actors: Dexter Hammett, Dan Nachtrab
  • Directors: Christopher S. Rech, Brandon Kimber
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Color, NTSC, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: PG-13 (Parental Guidance Suggested)
  • Studio: MPI HOME VIDEO
  • DVD Release Date: September 29, 2015
  • Run Time: 91 minutes

  •         True crime stories are extremely popular right now, with the explosion of popularity behind the Serial podcast showing that an unbelievable narrative told well can often be more exciting than an action film. A Murder in the Park takes a unique approach, evolving from an investigative crime procedural to a story about corruption and deceit. To say that this story plays out in a satisfying way would be a stretch, though it remains consistently fascinating throughout every twist and turn.


            In the summer of 1983, two teenagers were senselessly killed in Chicago’s Washington Park, leading to the arrest of known thief and criminal, Anthony Porter. Porter was convicted by the evidence against him and sentenced to death, but a group of students led by their journalism professor fought to reverse this decision in 1998. In what appeared to be an inspiring case of injustice corrected, Porter was eventually pardoned and another suspect was arrested. It seemed as though these students had done what the justice system had failed to accomplish the first time around, until the details about their investigation began to come to light.


            Alstory Simon replaced Porter as the primary suspect, sentenced to 37-years on a videotaped confession he was coerced into making. The film begins to peel back the layers of the investigation that led to this confession, discovering the fallacy in the new evidence and ulterior political motives for wanting Porter to be released when he was. Simon seemed to be an unfortunate pawn in a larger scheme to abolish the death penalty in Illinois, and there are plenty of supposed advocates for truth who were unwilling to be interviewed for this film. Their shame about the situation speaks volumes.


            The first hour or so of A Murder in the Park remains engaging with each of the narrative twists, though it does feel like the final third of the film starts to go in circles. The material starts to repeat somewhat and there is no resolution satisfying enough to match the set-up, so that it feels like filmmakers Shawn Rech and Brandon Kimber are scrambling to find an ending. While this doesn’t take away from the elements that work, there were moments that I wondered if there was enough material to warrant a feature film.


            The DVD special features only include a trailer.


    Entertainment Value: 7/10

    Quality of Filmmaking: 6.5/10

    Historical Significance:  4/10

    Special Features: 1/10

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