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Culture: Alarming pot-shot at trigger-happy nation; BOWLING FOR COLUMBINE CERT 15 119MINS.

On April 20, 1999, the US launched the largest bombing raid ever in the Kosovo war. That same day, teenagers Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold went bowling then walked into Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado, and shot dead 12 fellow students and one teacher before turning their guns on themselves.

Shortly afterwards, Charlton Heston, President of the National Rifle Association, spoke to a rally in the town, defending the right of all Americans to bear arms.

Days before the shootings, Michael Moore had completed a segment for his TV series, The Awful Truth, a satirical item in which a weapons instructor trained two-year-olds to fire guns so they could release their aggression at school.

It was never transmitted, but its chillingly-prophetic nature spurred the confrontational documentarian to explore the gun culture in America - a nation where you can get a free rifle if you open a bank account. Typically, Moore spins off into a whole variety of directions embracing the news media's racism, an animated talking bullet's history of America, the culture of fear of the non-white, 9/11, contrasts with other countries (notably Canada where ten million households have seven million guns but there are only 165 annual gun deaths compared with 11,127 in the US), economic depression, self-serving American foreign policy that aided both Osama Bin Laden and Saddam Hussein, and anything else that might have a bearing on why his country is so trigger-happy.

Underlining the American inability to comprehend irony, he talks to everyone from a state cop (asking if a dog involved in a shooting accident was charged) to the guy who was proud to be number two suspect in the Oklahoma bombings; from articulate Columbine scapegoat Marilyn Manson whose records the pair owned (as Moore says, you might as easily blame bowling) to the PR for Lockheed, the Littleton-based company that both builds nuclear rockets and handles the welfare to work programme; from Columbine graduate Matt Stone who turned his anger into South Park to a final confrontation with Heston, asking why he felt it appropriate to hold NRA rallies not only at Littleton but, a few months later, in Moore's home town of Flint, Michigan, the day after a six-year-old boy shot dead a girl classmate.

It's sprawlingly unfocused, axe-grindingly non-objective, riddled with Moore's selfrighteousness, and (as with What A Wonderful World accompany-ing a particularly grim montage) often as subtle as an Uzi.

The reasoning may be sometimes specious and attempts at answers (free health care and unconditional welfare system) a touch glib, but through interviewees hilariously shooting themselves in the foot, shocking real-life footage (including CCTV film of the Columbine killers in action), emergency phone-call recordings, and a remarkable moment when two Columbine survivors visit K Mart's HQ demanding they stop selling ammo - and they do - it's also thoroughly and thoughtfully entertaining. HHHH
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Nov 15, 2002
Previous Article:Culture: Review: Poor turn out for delightful evening; CBSO Symphony Hall.
Next Article:Culture: Under the gun; Mike Davies goes bowling with Michael Moore and, below, he reviews his new documentary film.

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