Richard Davis shot himself 192 times—literally shot himself, usually on camera, while demonstrating the modern concealed carry bulletproof vest invented in the 1970s. It can be argued that no one in the history of mankind has shot himself so many times.

Why. Would like to they.

As we see in Ramin Bahrani’s fascinating documentary “Second Chances,” the narcissistic, self-aggrandizing, friendly, outwardly friendly, furiously obstinate and complacent Davis also shot himself figuratively several times. Bahrani (director of such films as “Man Push Cart” and “Chop Shop”) also serves as off-camera interviewer and narrator, and as he says at the beginning of this story, Davis repeatedly recounted those shootings. Risked his life with the demonstrations. Part of his effort to save thousands of lives with his invention, but ultimately put over 100,000 lives at risk when he oversaw the manufacturing and marketing of a later version of the vest that was tragically problematic.

Along the way, Davis turned himself into a folk hero, earning millions of dollars, creating hundreds of jobs and watching his invention become a staple with law enforcement and military personnel in a classic tale of the Great American Dream—which Eventually the nightmare turned.

Director Bahren wisely avoided complicated time-shifting narratives, re-creations or flashy graphics, recognizing that he had more than enough material in existing archival footage and snippets from the crude “Dirty Harry” knockoff films Davies made as his product. As well as currently produced. -Interviews with several of the key players in this story. Front and center is Davis, who comes forward when he wants to be forthcoming, cagey when he wants to, and always portrays himself as the downhome hero of his own story.

Davis was operating a few pizza parlors in Detroit in 1969 when he was cornered by three gunmen during a delivery, used a .22 to defend himself, but died after being shot in his leg and right temple. was injured. After one of his pizza shops burned down, Davis turned to a very different business plan – designing, manufacturing and marketing a relatively lightweight bulletproof vest that could be worn under clothing. (Later in the film, we are told that he had no insurance policy on the pizza joint, despite Davis’ repeated claims that he had taken out a policy less than a week before the fire.) His dramatic origin story is also called into question when no reliable police reports or news stories about the incident can be found.)

driving from police station to police station to demonstrate their product, publishing a catalog called “Sex and Violence”, using bikini-clad models to help market the vest, and making those aforementioned cheap movies In 1967, Davis turned to Second Chance Body Armor Company. A multimillion-dollar American success story. As Davis recounts in his characteristic awkwardness, “I told my wife we ​​could go to K-Mart and buy whatever we wanted. … [It was] Redneck Nirvana.

Davis, headquartered in Central Lakes, Michigan, became the city’s largest employer and a larger-than-life figure who held annual fireworks shows on his sprawling property and hosted week-long shooting competitions. (When a canister exploded at a 1997 show, killing one person and injuring 15 others, Davis blamed the fireworks’ manufacturer and complained, “Everybody’s pointing at me, like That it was my fault.”) Meanwhile, Davis keeps up a running tally. Among the law enforcement personnel who credit his invention with saving their lives—literally hundreds of people.

After 9/11, as the US military and domestic law enforcement officials stockpiled the vest, Davis and Second Chance sold a next-generation vest using Xylon, which was lighter, thinner and reportedly stronger. But by 2002, it was clear that Xylon was rapidly eroding, putting thousands of lives at risk.

In one of the film’s most compelling scenes, we hear from the widow of an Oceanside, California, police officer who was shot and killed despite wearing a xylon vest. Richard states that the officer was killed by a bullet that ricocheted off the vest, but the official report indicates that two bullets went through the vest. After Second Chance eventually reached a settlement in that case and paid settlements totaling $65 million, Richard lost the company, declared bankruptcy, suffered a heart attack, and was divorced.

Still, he continues to portray himself as hero and victim, even in the form of explicit metaphors about bulletproof vest fibers and ethical fiber piles. (In another wrinkle, Davis’ son, Matt, has found success with the Armor Express body armor manufacturing company.) There’s something unique about the story of the former pizza guy who invented the modern concealable bulletproof vest, and Richard Davis. It’s not about to be skeptical about their origin story or to be skeptical about some horrific mis-steps that got in the way of that story.

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