A global archive of independent reviews of everything happening from the beginning of the millennium

To send us a review you have written click here

To register FREE as a freelance writer or journalist click here

Read our Copyright Notice click here



Michael Moore has a way of presenting the facts such that he doesn't have to force the point home; he lets the audience draw the conclusion he wants them to. The opening segment of Bowling For Columbine is the perfect example of this. Only in America could you find a bank that offers you a free gun when you open an account with them. Standing in the lobby of the bank with his rifle in hand he asks the bank staff the obvious question, 'Don't you think that it's a bit dangerous handing out guns in a bank? The film then follows a path that highlights the attitudes and absurdities of the American view towards guns. The title relates to the school in Littlerock, Colorado where twelve students and one teacher were killed by two youths with legally and easily purchased guns.

Moore tackles a subject that he knows about, as a youth he was a prize winning marksman and is still a member of the National Rifle Association. He is also a native of Michigan, the home state of Charlton Heston, NRA president and also the Oklahoma bomber, Timothy McVey. The film is made with a mixture of humour and shock, but for the most part the film is a series of interviews with relevant parties from both sides of the gun issue. Talking first to the Michigan Militia, a group of gun enthusiasts, you are given an idea of just how some Americans feel towards guns. Fair enough the constitution gives the right to bear arms, but to what end? One man felt that an M16 was a suitable home defence weapon, and Moore jokingly adds: is weapons grade plutonium a suitable defence item to have to hand to use against the would be intruder? And that sums up part of the film's point, what is the acceptable level of personal arms?

The other main drive of the film is why does America have such a high gun murder rate. For example, the UK has a gun death rate of 68 per year; most european countries have similar levels; America's gun death rate is 11,127. So why is it so high? Various factors are examined - violent films, music, decline of family values - and all of these are dismissed as being things that are common to all modern countries. Japan has more violent films, Germany has a more violent history, the UK has more broken homes, so what makes the USA so different?

The interviews in the film are very telling. Marilyn Manson was widely blamed for causing the Columbine High School killings, in that his music was influential, and had adverse affects upon the youths that caused the massacre. As is pointed out, one hour before the Columbine tragedy was reported on the news, the main story was of the bombing of a hospital in Kosovo by American planes. Who is having a bigger influence on people, says Manson, me or the President? Charlton Heston and the NRA do not come off very well in Moore's interview, mainly through Heston's insistence on holding pro-gun rallies in locations soon after gun tragedies have occurred there. His interview is also very telling for what he almost says, and his quitting the interview.

Moore uses techniques familiar to his other films, one of the most striking is a sequence of newsreel showing war and devastation with chilling statistics being shown over the top whilst Wonderful World plays out in the background. There is a marvellous South Park-style cartoon history of American gun interests. This highlights what he sees as the main problem, fear. In a society where people seem to fear and hate one another, and with the media using sensationalism to get ratings, is this the type of society where guns should be easily available?

One of the most shocking pieces is the actual CCTV footage from Columbine High School, showing the shootings, and the distraught interviews with the survivors. This is powerful stuff and if it is Moore playing the shock card, at least it makes his point and leaves a lasting image with the viewer.

It's not a film for the easily shocked and could leave some people upset, but then the subject matter is a difficult one to chose and not deliver in a shocking way. It is Moore doing what he does best and is a must for anyone concerned about the gun issue.

If guns made the world a safer place, then America would be the safest place in the world.