Saturday, February 22, 2020


Hey, director Paul Solet!

(with the Brattle's Ned Hinkle on the left)

Solet is from Cambridge, which probably helped his film get booked at the Brattle and encouraged him to show up for a Q&A on opening night. It's a short run - ending Sunday, with no matinees - but hopefully it will see houses close to as full as they were when family and friends came out. It's a nifty documentary that benefits from the big screen, as it is (somewhat unusually) built around a sequence that wouldn't be out of place in an action-oriented narrative.

Very much a fun Q&A, with Solet eager to talk about how he was stunned by the sheer amount of anger Marvin Heemeyer had. It took him eighteen months to make his bulldozer into an unstoppable assault vehicle, and how it's kind of incredible that this guy not only could get this angry, but stay mad enough long enough to actually do this. If you take anything from this movie, he said, take away just how corrosive anger is.

Anyway, this still looks to be in distribution limbo despite playing SXSW a year ago (which isn't unusual; I just got a publicist email for the American release of a movie I saw at a festival two and a half years ago), so who knows if/when it will ever play theaters again or if it will just quietly sneak onto VOD at some point. If it sounds like your thing and you can catch it now, try and do so.


* * * (out of four)
Seen 21 February 2020 in the Brattle Theatre (special engagement, DCP)

How many people are going to get to see Tread in a theater with an audience? Probably not many, but the reaction is an interesting phenomenon to watch, as people who had spent the previous hour growing more horrified by the paranoia and rage that lead to a rampage find themselves laughing or showing a tight sort of grin as the film hits its climax and the aggrieved subject starts going to town with a customized bulldozer. Are we just wired to respond to people taking creative action, the audacious absurdity overriding how toxic it actually is? For better or worse, that impulse makes this movie something that's hard to look away from.

It tells the story of Marvin Heemeyer, who settled near Granby, Colorado in the 1990s, made a fair number of friends (as an avid snowmobiler and master welder, he became known for custom sled bumpers). He worked in nearby auto shops and eventually opened his own on a piece of land he'd bought at an FDIC foreclosure auction, which is when the problems started: One of the rival bidders had been a Granby local with a lot of friends on the town board, and Heemeyer soon found himself at loggerheads with the local government and "Good Ol' Boys Club". Then things got weird - he purchased a Komatsu D355A bulldozer to park on his property to intimidate the neighbors, eventually bringing it inside his shop, holing up there and welding steel plates and concrete to the vehicle until it was a behemoth that the police could do nothing to stop as he drove it through the property of those he felt had wronged him on 4 June 2004.

The film starts telling the story from Heemeyer's perspective, talking with his friends and a former girlfriend, highlighting his skills and successes, playing up the parts of his story that viewers will likely be able to identify with somewhat - feeling like an outsider, being subject to onerous regulations, that sort of thing. It's a narrative that people are familiar with, so even if they remember the incident from fifteen years ago, it's easy to sew that together with what they're seeing to tell a tale of the little guy striking back at the establishment. The film has plenty of Heemeyer's own words from tapes he recorded in early 2004, and it's initially folksy and easy to connect with.

Full review on EFilmCritic

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