UNDER THE GUN Review
Director: Stephanie Soechtig
Few millennial issues are as hotly debated as the second amendment, and regardless of where you stand, media bias has always been the downfall of these discussions. Nobody wants to discuss gun ownership anymore than they need to; it’s as simple as that. Documentarian Stephanie Soechtig has brought Americans a thoroughly researched film on the current state of affairs after the deadly shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary and Isla Vista. But with her intel comes a dangerous dose of personal bias, that, although emotionally charged, makes for a 90-minute documentary that arguably does nothing but preach to the choir.
You see, UNDER THE GUN is not a bad film. In fact, it’s polished, well informed, and competently put together. Despite feeling a little too long for its own good, its downfall is ultimately that it feels like nothing but a 2016 patch to Michael Moore’s 2002 film, BOWLING FOR COLUMBINE. While Moore’s liberal bias makes Soechtig’s look like a Rush Limbaugh bit, his trademark humor, sense of timing, urgency, and confrontational frustration is what has consistently made his film one of the most indelible documentaries in cinematic history, no matter how much manipulation might have been involved in the process.
“This is where I hide my weed”
While UNDER THE GUN is admittedly more raw in its presentation, it also does absolutely nothing to open its doors to a conservative audience. Though its discussion of bad apple gun dealers is an important, modern issue, Soechtig’s biggest pitfall is that her film doesn’t ease a (potentially conservative) viewer into watching a film that could change their stance. This is preaching to the choir at its finest. And frankly, it’s aggravating. Watching UNDER THE GUN is like listening to two college students affirm each other’s values for social justice, and while that might be fine and dandy on a University campus, it actually does nothing to change anybody’s opinion.
Overflowing with charts and graphics that manipulatively demonize weapons, UNDER THE GUN is less a film about facts than it is reverse fear mongering. While a gun owner might purchase a weapon in fear of a mass shooting, UNDER THE GUN scares viewers into informing us how many weapons are bought because of mass shootings. And whilst certainly a lot of its information is valid, I feel like this documentary has been made for an audience of people that want more reasons to hate the NRA.
It all comes down to presentation, and UNDER THE GUN starts off strong. It sits down a roundtable of gun owners, all of which appear to have a vested interest in protecting their beliefs. But instead of giving them opportunities to voice their opinions, UNDER THE GUN uses their brief intervals of silence in order to bolster its argument that “conservatives don’t have arguments.” If Soechtig would let her film be less diluted by data, breathe, and give conservatives enough rope to hang themselves, then her film would feel less one-sided, but instead we are provided a film that’s rampant with opinions from the left and only few moments of defense from the right.
It baffles me to even say this, but BOWLING FOR COLUMBINE actually feels more balanced, despite Moore’s blatant agenda. UNDER THE GUN is a truckload of facts, but it never comes across as even. While Moore is certainly confrontational, at least he lets the other side get their word in. This is not to say that UNDER THE GUN isn’t emotionally charged, but it’s often frustrating for all the wrong reasons. I wish there were more to say in Soechtig’s defense, because as somebody who believes in the virtues of changing opinions through the power of cinema, this could have been an affecting documentary for staunch supporters of the second amendment. But when all is said and done, beating a dead horse is unfair, especially when it’s been shot.
Verdict: Do Not Recommend