2nd Chance, a social justice documentary written and directed by Ramin Bahrani, premiered at SXSW 2022. The film explores the life and times of Richard Davis and his body armor company Second Chance. Bahrani accomplishes this with incredible acuity, comprehensive research, and fine documentary skills. The history of Davis and the company keeps one engaged through to the poignant and uncanny ending.
What Bahrani captures is a uniquely American story. Only in the United States, the film suggests, might one rise and fall, yet leave a legacy where one’s children take up the banner after one’s business goes belly up.
Apotheosis and Infamy
The filmmaker begins the chronicle of Davis’ apotheosis and infamy with Davis himself in interviews 50+ years later. Davis talks about his business inspiration as he and Bahrani visit present-day sites, which the film contrasts with archived old photos. Thus, not only do we understand this individual, we relate back to the historical time and place.
Davis’ story is revealed through insightful interviews of Davis, his former wives, and his friends and family, edited together with old films, advertisements, and more. An avid gun owner with an eye toward protecting law enforcement, Davis researches and develops his modern-day bulletproof vest. Because it was lightweight and comfortable, with adequate chest and stomach protection, law enforcement loved it.
A Sensational Product Demo
Sensationally, to prove the vest’s efficacy, Davis shot himself at point blank range on film, and apparently shot himself 192 times altogether.
He created his own films to sell his body armor, presenting fictionalized stories of how the vest saved individual cops’ lives. He became close friends with one of these cops. Bahrani interviews Davis’ friends Aaron Westrick, who proves a credible witness, and his wife Karen. Davis became the iconic celebrity employer of his hometown, employed Westrick, his friends and family. But a falling out between the two friends ends in tragedy.
A Concealable Bulletproof Vest That Saved Over 3,000 Lives
Davis’ vest saved over 3,000 lives and Second Chance became the largest body armor firm in the world. He was a natural salesman with personality and boldness, and police and gun owners across the nation believed in his product. But Bahrani also investigates the darker side of the story. Interviews with former employees and colleagues gradually reveals a full portrait of the man and his slippery past. Finally, we understand how the company went bankrupt.
Ever the survivor, Davis manages to negotiate himself out of jail time. Nevertheless, the controversy results in a dubious ending to a once laudable and ingenious beginning.
An Unflinching Account
Bahrani presents a no-holds-barred account of Richard Davis, aided greatly by present-day interviews of the inventory. Often speaking without a filter, Davis presents himself readily as a successful entrepreneur, but becomes silent or opaque when Bahrani’s probing questions float too close for comfort.
Using extraordinary footage from the archives – Davis’ old films, press clippings, etc. – the documentary cobbles together a comprehensive study of guns, law enforcement, failures of protection and deals made and lost. Old photos and interviews past and present provide the meat of this American story. It also serves as an indictment of corporate America. Bahrani’s interviews of those once close to Davis who provide first-hand knowledge and impressions are priceless. And the film ends on a beautiful and surprisingly positive note.
Check with your channels to screen 2nd Chance film on VOD. Or check for updates of the film on the IMBD website.