Cast & Crew info:
Features Michael Moore, Marilyn Manson, Charleton Heston
and Matt Stone
Produced by Charles
Bishop, Jim Czarnecki, Michael Donovan, Kurt Engfehr, Kathleen
Glynn, Tia Lessin, Michael Moore, Wolfram Tichy and Rehya
Young; Directed and screenwritten by Michael Moore
Rated R for some violent images and language; Running
Time - 120 Minutes
Domestic Release Dates:
October 11, 2002
by DAVID KEYES
since a group of teenagers descended the halls of a high
school in Colorado on April 20, 1999, the subject of violence
has been a painful and sometimes sluggish debate among the
inhabitants of modern society. A legacy that initially founded
the United States of America to begin with, violence has
always been imbedded in the public's psyche, persisting
even in times when the fear of it was much greater than
the actual threat itself. But to what extent does that trait
manifest into a living beast and consume its host? Does
the media provide an easy outlet for it to take charge?
And whose to say that any specific person or event is to
cause for it unfolding? Columbine forced us to consider
these difficult questions extensively, although we still
aren't any closer to appropriate answers.
the documentary world, such subjects are almost impossible
to tackle without the intervention of personal bias. Consider,
for instance, the result if someone like Anton Lavey were
to make a film about Christianity or the origins of the
Bible. To assume that there can be objectivity in regards
to our violent America is to destroy any hope of a successful
movie being made about it. But with "Bowling for Columbine,"
the new film from Michael Moore, an amazing feat is accomplished:
inevitable prejudices are balanced alongside a twist of
impartiality. In this wildly startling look at the rapid
decline of the American moral system, we are guided into
the path of a man who knows little about the subject other
than his own instincts, and though his destination has a
few shameless angles along the way, it nonetheless provides
an interesting and savage insight. The movie is startling,
thought-provoking, brave and aggressive, and no doubt one
of the year's most brutally brilliant efforts.
the first scenes, Moore invites his cameras into a small
local bank offering an intriguing deal for anyone who signs
up for a checking account: a free hunting rifle. Merely
asking the desk clerks "Don't you think it's dangerous
to just let people have these things?", he begins a
solid but often veiled argument against the obsession with
these weapons, followed perhaps inevitably by interviews
with James Nichols, the Michigan-based radical who was acquitted
of charges linking him to the Oklahoma City bombing years
before. Nichols concludes his somewhat freakish rants with
the statement, "there's a lot of wackos out there!",
but the irony has already settled in enough to make the
message clear: men who confidently stride through life attached
to deadly weaponry often go ignored by larger societies.
movie uses that prospect to platform us into the documentary's
core subject: the violent shootings of Columbine High School,
shown here through rare surveillance footage in a shocking
(yet astounding) five-minute sequence containing no dialogue.
In the background, an acoustic instrumental version of Marilyn
Manson's song "The Nobodies" can barely be heard,
but its presence is enough to further explore the subject
beyond just the killings themselves. Many will easily recall
how certain subjects in the entertainment industry were
fingered for the tragedies, and Manson's was perhaps the
largest, most scathing... and most unfair. "What would
you say to the Columbine kids if they were here today?",
Moore asks before one of the shock-rocker's Denver concerts.
"I wouldn't say anything," he earnestly replies.
"I would listen."
specific timelines are implored to build the case against
guns as well: quick but jolting American timelines done
entirely as cartoons scrawl across the screen like stabs
against our ancestry, and a shooting in the Midwest that
killed an innocent elementary school girl, in particular,
strikes a nerve because it represents the second time in
a relatively small time frame when kids have brought the
adult sport of violence into the classroom (not to mention
the second time when Charleton Heston conveniently brought
his NRA convention into town just shortly following the
incident). What does the movie think of Heston in this grand
scheme? Ah, but that's for the documentary's final act to
decide, and when Moore confronts the famous actor head-on
with these rather cold facts rather cleverly by first introducing
himself as a lifelong member of the NRA, the once-gargantuan
actor of the past is reduced, perhaps a little appropriately,
to a mere coward.
Moore isn't one of these rebellious anti-capitalism people
who seems to think America is in major debt to karma, though;
he's simply a man who loves his country enough to want change
for the better, no matter how extensive it may need to be.
Though "Bowling For Columbine" is inarguably antigun
on several of its issues, particularly during the sometimes
slow middle act, and even a little egotistical during a
few setupsthe K-Mart sequence is definitely forcedMoore's
courage makes the thrust something of an objective one,
provoking and arguing against accepted theories not because
it has hidden agendas or biases, but because it wants the
audience to see a side of the story that is still too feared
to be talked about openly. "Bowling For Columbine"
works remarkably as a documentary, but that's all just ground
work, it turns out, for the shocking, harsh and perhaps
destructive reality that is exposed beyond the initial facades.
This isn't just a great endeavor for study purposes, but
also one of the most important.
© 2003, David Keyes, Cinemaphile.org.
Please e-mail the author here
if the above review contains any spelling or grammar mistakes.