The title suggests that this would be a movie that explores America’s gun problem, but what it becomes is an exploration of America’s violent tendencies. More himself is a larger than life satirist and documentarian who has been a prominent progressive voice in the media for decades. In this film he tries to explain why America is so different.
When Moore made this documentary the gun debate was different. More democrats were supporters of gun rights and the age of the mass shooting was in its infancy. In 2002 Columbine was still fresh in peoples memories and 9/11 had just occurred completely changing the fabric of American culture.
More starts tying ideas together, from our foreign policy to our relaxed gun laws and local news’ disproportionate coverage of crime. Moore’s ability to construct a story out of disparate parts is perhaps the most impressive part of this film.
Footage from TV news, filmed acts of violence, cartoons and typical Moore political stunts all come together to try and coherently tell a story that seems to be too big to analyze.
It doesn’t explain the violence, but instead give a Clockwork Orange-y stream of images that are range from tragic to comic. Afterward watching you have difficulty connecting all the dots, no matter how much sense it may make as an individual statement. The film does better at mocking the absurdity that dumbs down America.
Moore is most convincing when downplaying the importance of gun ownership, heavy metal and violent entertainment. But looking back today, the debate hasn’t evolved.
The protective high school policies past after Columbine weren’t successful. The implementation of metal detectors and police in schools hasn’t stemmed the tide of school shootings.
When revisiting the film Moore seemed even more pessimistic than when he made the film.
“It’s the American equation: Dumb down the population; make them ignorant and stupid. Ignorance leads to fear. Fear lead to hate. Trump knew that part of the equation really well. Hate leads to violence, or to use your ballot as an act of violence against the people you hate,” Moore said.
The wide array of topics taken on in this film shows how little we can truly agree on. There are hundreds of factors that effect violence, and what’s covered in the film probably contributes, but it’s lack of focus makes this movie raise more questions than it answers. In the end we’re left wondering what specifically is wrong with us.