Richard Davis’ story is a very American one, as director Ramin Bahrani notes in his characteristic documentary debut, “2nd Likelihood.” It’s stuffed with self-aggrandizement and reinvention, good and unhealthy guys, sincerity, and hypocrisy. The contradictions inside the man who invented the trendy bulletproof vest are stark; inside his down-home demeanor, there are myriad examples of his desperation and deceit.
Davis is concurrently fascinating and repulsive, as Bahrani reveals in his quietly observational model and understated questioning and narration. It’s when the director expands his scope that his movie begins to really feel unfocused and a little messy. Bahrani tries to attach Davis to extra vital points which have marked our nation’s historical past over the previous a number of many years, from the military-industrial complicated to police brutality to the icky, inextricable hyperlink between intercourse and violence. Certainly, the director of “99 Houses” and “The White Tiger” has confirmed a driving curiosity in telling tales that shine a light-weight on injustice and cruelty. However right here, the consequence suggests he’s dipping his toe into these huge topics reasonably than getting his arms round them in a wise and satisfying way.
Probably the most fascinating determine in “2nd Chance” is entrance and middle from the start. Once we first see Davis in archival footage, he’s taking pictures himself within the chest to reveal the protecting energy of the vest he’s designed. He’s matter-of-fact as he walks us by means of this harrowing act; we’ll be taught that he’s achieved this 192 occasions in his life.
However the bespectacled Michigander isn’t simply obsessive about weaponry. He’s additionally a showman and a filmmaker. His low-budget, pulpy photos, that are meant as glorified infomercials for his former enterprise, Second Likelihood, draw from the swaggering ethos of “Dirty Harry” in hilarious and appalling methods.
What’s constant in all his propaganda, whatever the medium, is that the bulletproof vest he created saves the day. Watching newer interviews with him, as he sits on a snug leather-based sofa in his humble lounge, you get the concept he derives an genuine sense of pleasure in having saved tons of of law enforcement officials’ lives. For all of the shadiness we’ll uncover about Davis down the road, there’s something earnest and pure concerning the sense of responsibility that defines him. Or did, for a time.
And but his complete operation additionally was meant to instill worry in law enforcement officials that criminals have been such an incessant menace, andthe solely approach to keep alive was to purchase extra of his product. Specifically, 9/11 was a boon to his enterprise, because it allowed him to increase his gross sales past particular person police departments and into the bigger United States navy. The truth that he so giddily benefitted from a lot pointless violence and struggling makes him form of an abhorrent human being, an intuition he masks with a puckish humorousness and an aw-shucks persona.
Each of his ex-wives communicate to the narcissism that motivates him, which, shockingly, stems from his lifelong daddy points. “Richard desperately must be beloved by individuals,” one in all them recollects wearily. And but that fortified sense of self protects him from having to do an excessive amount of self-examination about his many unlawful and unethical selections or the myriad lives he’s ruined.
So is he a sociopath? A compulsive liar? Or maybe he’s simply made the error of believing his personal hype, and he’s surrounded himself with macho meatheads who’re equally obsessive about gun tradition. Bahrani lets Davis communicate for himself, and he rounds out the image of this sophisticated determine with equally unadorned however impactful discussions with former workers and colleagues and even Davis’ son, with whom he co-owns a brand new physique armor business.
However it’s the interviews within the movie’s epilogue that give this movie higher depth and shading and elevate it to sudden emotional heights. This massive reveal packs a strong punch, and it supplies the movie’s title with an entire new which means.