‘3 1/2 Minutes, Ten Bullets’: Loss and Resolve in the Jordan Davis Murder

Three years ago, Jordan Davis was shot and killed at a gas station in Jacksonville, Florida. He was 17 years old.

The man who shot him complained that Jordan and his friends played their music too loudly. When he pulled out his weapon to shoot at the boys’ car, the killer claimed self-defense, saying he saw a shotgun. No weapons were found in the car.

What became known as the “Loud Music” case is the most obvious focus of 3 1/2 Minutes, Ten Bullets, which premiered on HBO on 23 November. But Marc Silver’s film does more than document the crime and the courtroom proceedings, wherein Michael Dunn was eventually sentenced to life in prison. It also reveals the emergence of a movement, an increasing awareness and resistance, embodied by the parents of young black men who, as Jordan Davis’ father Ron puts it here, “a club that none of us want to be in.'”

In making Ron and Lucy’s struggles vivid and also intimate, beautifully composed and harrowing, the film represents the stakes that anyone might have in resolving the ongoing crisis. Repeatedly the film cuts between the experiences of both of Jordan’s parents, Ron and Lucy, their questions and their determination, their faith and their despair. It also interrogates the spectacle of the trial, the media’s careening focuses and narratives.

Extraordinarily visually precise, the movie considers the many efforts to package and provoke the spectacle. Born of death and cruelty, of distrust and fear, the spectacle is yet a product, and as such, a lens through which to reconsider how such violence erupts. If the killer Michael Dunn is frightening to hear as he calls the boys names and insists they threaten him with their sense of “entitlement”, his language and demeanor also suggest his own self-image, as the victim in this trial, the man who meant to stand his ground and is now “punished”.

His vision is unsustainable, but you might see how he came to it. In seeing that, you also see the longer road ahead.

See full PopMatters review here.

RATING 9 / 10