In the documentary 2nd Chance — showing Tuesday, March 8, and Friday, March 11, at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival — we learn that the inventor of the modern bulletproof vest is a former U.S. Marine turned pizzeria owner named Richard Davis. The company he founded in the 1970s introduced lightweight Kevlar to police stations across the country. Davis staged demonstrations for skeptical chiefs by shooting himself in the chest. This was before he and the company ultimately flamed out amid scandal, coverup, and the death of an officer whose defective vest failed.
But 2nd Chance doesn’t just trace the rise, fall, and pending redemption of Davis, who is now operating another body armor company, this time with his son. The film’s heartbeat, explained producer Johnny Galvin, comes from the life-or-death decisions those swept up in Davis’s wake faced because of his lies and recklessness. This collateral damage extends from his ex-wives to his former employees to the police he convinced to fear the people they are supposed to protect.
“At several points, these people are presented with a stark choice to either forgive or to seek a path of retribution,” said Galvin. In one scene, Davis offers to buy new sidearms for officers who kill any suspect who shoots at them. In another, one of those officers tearfully reconciles with a man he traded bullets with.
Directed and narrated by Ramin Bahrani (The White Tiger, Chop Shop) and an official selection of the 2022 Sundance Film Festival, the documentary is on its surface a parable of runaway capitalism, righteousness, and American gun culture. But watch Bahrani’s interviews with Davis, and you find a man hard to pigeonhole. You can’t help but admire his industriousness even among the wreckage. “You can compare him to other inventors of the world,” said Galvin, invoking Elon Musk. “They’re in it for the quest of innovation. It’s an unquenchable thirst.”
2nd Chance screens at the Metro 4’s Theatre #4 on Tuesday, March 8, at 9 p.m. and again at the Metro 4’s Theatre #1 on Friday, March 11, at 8 a.m. See sbiff.org and follow our daily SBIFF coverage at independent.com/sbiff. Don’t forget to catch our cover package on the festival here.