It’s one of those parallel stories deals – with three different plots happening at the same time, essentially. One is about a Chicago principal (Forest Whittaker) working at an inner city school and a teenager there who carries a gun for protection during his overnight job at a gas station, but is almost suspended for hiding it outside the school before going in.
There is also the story of a Virginia Tech Student who interrupts what appears to be a gang rape of her unconscious roommate and in the process is shoved and bruised by one of the man. She happens to work at the gun shop of her Grandfather (Donald Sutherland) and explores the possibility of owning and firing a gun at a competitor’s shop.
We also enter the lives of the mother (Marcia Gay Harden) and brother of a Columbine-esque school attacker. The setting is Ridgeline High School and the video of the scene is strikingly similar to the ones we’ve all seen on TV. After his mom struggles valiantly to keep him enrolled in a private school, including performing a TV interview for money, he is asked to leave due to too much publicity. He must return to the high school his brother victimized, and after meeting a girl at that High School who doesn’t treat him like a leper, she is shot by someone at a convenience store.
I found all the side characters / subplots distracting and underdeveloped…Forest Whitaker’s son sees the body of a murdered prostitute, and father and son have no relationship – at least no until Dad decides to quit his job. The cop who didn’t’ stop the Columbine massacre and his apprehension of the guy who killed the young girl, the whole story of the VA Tech student…
Maybe I didn’t get the movie, maybe over people could see the overarching message, but I found it a bit disjointed. I was also vaguely bothered by the hint that strong women might need guns… the VA Tech student gets lessons from a woman at the shooting range, in response to brutalization by a man. I mean I guess the overall message is that guns are bad, but maybe it’s because I already believe it that this was lost on me,
The actors gave wonderful performances though – all of them – and watching the movie is worth it to witness those alone.