9 October 2008 | bkoganbing
True Or No
A Show Of Force is a fictionalization of an actual incident that took place in 1978 in Puerto Rico. At that time on Puerto Rico's Constitution Day, the police allegedly shot and killed two Independista Terrorists who were planning a big attack, one that would arouse the Puerto Rican people to revolution.
It was a great deal less than that in the sense that all that was planned was on that Puerto Rican holiday, the 'terrorists' were planning to seize control of the broadcast tower of the main Puerto Rican television station to broadcast a message favoring independence. In fact the whole thing was organized by an undercover police infiltrator in the cell.
All the names in A Show Of Force were changed as they used to say on Dragnet to protect the innocent. In fact whole new characters were created for this story including investigative television reporter Amy Irving, a woman from the States who married and was left a widow to a prominent lawyer for the Independence movement.
The Puerto Rican independence movement has its followers to this day and certainly only a fraction of them would be using terrorist tactics to gain their objective. Back in the Fifties it certainly got a bad name with the American public with the 1950 assassination attempt on President Truman and the later 1954 shooting at the House of Representaives where five members of Congress were wounded.
In fact Puerto Rican politics ever since 1898 when the USA took Puerto Rico almost as an afterthought from the Spanish American War has been divided along that issue into three parts. Those who want to retain the Commonwealth Status the island has now, those who advocate for admission to the USA as a state, and those who want independence. The fear of independence during the Cold War was the exaggerated fear that Puerto Rico would become another Cuba. I think it was sheer paranoia, but a lot of folks believed that, hence the issue and the creation of these straw man terrorists.
There was indeed an investigation by the Puerto Rican Legislature as shown here and indictments were brought forth against the police officers who committed the homicides.
A really good cast was put together in support of Amy Irving that included Robert Duvall, Andy Garcia, Priscilla Pointer, Joseph Campanella, and Kevin Spacey as the FBI man who was the alleged puppet-master.
One character that was genuine though his name was changed in the film as all the others were was the police agent provocateur played by Lou Diamond Phillips. His is the performance that really carries the film. Lou manages to look incredibly sexy in those Seventies fashions and dangerous as well. His is the pivotal character in the film, his scenes with Amy Irving crackle with both hate and sex at the same time.
I did a little research and found that some ten years after the incident at Cerra Maravilla, the real man on whom Phillips's character is based was shot to death by person or persons unknown. But it is presumed that Independista sympathizers did the deed in revenge for being set up as they were. Normally I don't favor these kind of things, but I think some justice got done there.
The film was shot entirely in Puerto Rico at the places and locations of where things actually took place. I happened to visit there in 1983 and I recognized any number of scenes in and around San Juan. A Show Of Force is far from accurate, but it does give you a good background as to the incident Cerra Maravilla in 1978 and the politics surrounding it.