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Bowling For Columbine Review

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Sparked into action by the shootings at Columbine High School, TV Nation presenter Michael Moore investigates the state of gun control in the USA.

★★★★

Forget record tokens and a competitive interest rate - there's a bank in Michigan that will give you a free gun if you open an account. "Only in America," say the Brits, chuckling and shaking our heads. But laughs turn to tears on a daily basis in the States, where the incidence of death by gunshot wounds has escalated to epidemic proportions.

Investigative filmmaker Michael Moore's heartfelt documentary - as entertaining as it is politically damning - looks deep into America's love affair with firearms. Guns aren't just part of daily life in the States; they're a legal part of the Constitution. And this - combined with an ingrained fear of enemies without and within - is a fatal attraction.

Moore's arguments are passionate and factually sound, but he's never dry. At his best, he embraces the absurdity of a given situation, twisting it in on itself, shaming the callous and greedy into facing up to their responsibilities. For example, in a genius move, he takes a wheelchair-bound victim of the Columbine High School shooting - a boy who has inoperable bullets lodged in his body - to the headquarters of K-mart, the company who supplied the ammunition so readily over the counter to the teenage killers. The boy is only, Moore contends, returning their merchandise. The supermarket chain's reaction is a surprise for both audience and filmmaker, as thrilling a cinematic experience as many a clever plot twist.

The film even has an inbuilt climactic showdown, as NRA member Moore and NRA President Charlton Heston meet up to discuss the issues at hand. As ever, Moore gets a foot in the door using a combination of intelligence, research and charisma, before playing the emotional card. Moore never forgets that all of these political debates and legal details have a tragic, personal cost. As Heston slinks off, we realise it may be impossible to watch Ben-Hur in the same light again.

A brave and important piece of filmmaking that dares to ask questions that many people would prefer remain unsaid. This isn't just about guns: it's about the psychology of a nation whose every move has global implications.