Bowling For Columbine

Bowling For Columbine


Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

Radio 4 listeners and members of Neighbourhood Watch approve of gun control. They remember Dunblane and Hungerford and feel a little smug that something was done about it. The government smelt the coffee, turned off the gas and made new laws. Guns, like fags, are bad for you. It's official.

Every time there is a massacre - five bodies plus - in the States, so-called experts are tossed in front of TV cameras and riddled with questions. Is it violent movies? Is it the breakdown of the nuclear family? Is it drugs? Is it Nirvana/video games/Marilyn Manson?

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Looking at the problem from the safety of Midlothian, it appears so simple. America is awash with weapons. In the hands of wackos, alienated teenagers and ghetto gang members, they go off in other people's faces. Take the guns away - and knives, while you're at it - and society can live in peace.

Oh, no. Michael Moore makes movies that slip under the radar. Obvious answers are not obvious to him. He talks to those in the front line. He wants to know what they think. "When the government gets too radical, it is your duty to overthrow it," a gun nut in Michigan tells him. Except he's not a nut. He's a regular guy, dressed in camouflage fatigues, with a wife and kids back home. This is small town K-Mart country, from where the Oklahoma bombers and the boys who went berserk at Columbine High School and the six-year-old black kid who shot a six-year-old white girl dead with his uncle's rifle come from. Why?

Fear is endemic in America, Moore believes. "Keep everyone afraid and they'll consume." That's one side of it. On the day of the Columbine killings more bombs were dropped over Kosovo than ever before. That's another. President Bush's macho stand for justice against terror is typical. "First reaction is to pull the gun out."

Patacake theories fall to bits when you look at Canada. A hell of a lot of guns up there. Hunting is popular. Practically no homicides. Moore crosses the border and talks to the chief of police in Sarnia. Only one gun crime in the last three years. The guy responsible was from Detroit. Also, no one locks their doors. Moore checks it out, keeps walking into people's houses and apologising. Couldn't do that in Littleton, Colorado.

What makes this film remarkable is the personality of the man himself. Moore shambles through it in baggy jeans and his shirt hanging out at the back, with a battered baseball cap and a couple of days' growth on his chin, for all the world like a friendly bear from the Goldilocks show, asking ironic questions that sound harmless to the uninitiated - Charlton Heston was quick to pick up the drift of his enquiries into the activities of the NRA and stormed off ."Mr Heston, please don't leave," Moore begs. "This is the girl." He is holding up a photograph of the six-year-old who was shot in Flint, Michigan.

Don't think you know the answer to America's love affair with the handgun until you have watched Bowling For Columbine. It is as moving as it is disturbing. Often, it can be very funny.

Reviewed on: 09 Oct 2002
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Documentary maker Michael Moore turns the spotlight on American gun culture.
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Director: Michael Moore

Writer: Michael Moore

Year: 2002

Runtime: 123 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US, Canada


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