peteg's blog - noise - movies - 2023 09 16 2ndChance

2nd Chance (2022)

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A pointer from Jason Di Rosso who interviewed director/interviewer Ramin Bahrani. They actually spent a lot of time talking about his adaptation of Adiga's The White Tiger. Apparently Roger Ebert was a fan of his.

This is a documentary about the rise and fall of Richard Davis, a bloke from Detroit who pivoted from pizzerias to bullet-proof vests. He soon moved his operation to Central Lake, Michigan where, being the largest employer in the area — think Ford in the early days — he ran things as a personal fief. From the start there's a charismatic cult-leader unreliable-narrator vibe that, combined with his cognitive dissonance, gun fetishes and outlandish unapologetic style, is expected to entertain. See, for instance, Pinshoot. And Australians could maybe consider him something of a self-shooting Ned Kelly.

I guess the narrative centre of the film is the scandal around Second Chance Body Armor Inc's use of the defective (rapidly degenerating) material Zylon in their vests in the early 2000s that soon bankrupted the company. The New York Times yields little about this via its search; there's an article by the Associated Press from 2003-012-26 and a retro on 2006-01-22. But never fear: while "there are no second acts in American lives" his son soon Phoenixed Armor Express from the ashes.

Overall it's a bit of a weird depth to plumb. None of the interviewees really pop except perhaps for his second wife who seemed almost normal. It's hard to parse the history as the most famous material used in these vests — Kevlar — was developed elsewhere, though Wikipedia suggests Davis was the first to go all-in on that material.

Nicolas Rapold. Gonzo.