Review by Sean Boelman
Making a documentary about an important issue virtually guarantees that it will be part of the discussion, but it also comes at the risk that it is covering material that has been explored before. The Price of Freedom struggles with that line, making some interesting points but also meandering through a lot of things that have already been said.
The film explores the history of the National Rifle Association and how the organization’s influence on politics became massively exaggerated. Viewers often hear a lot about how the NRA has its hands in all sorts of pies when it comes to gun control, but Judd Ehrlich’s movie pulls back the curtain on a lot of secrets that politicians would probably rather not have the general public know.
Perhaps the biggest issue with the film is that it tries to do too much in its relatively short runtime. It’s clear that Ehrlich is attempting to link the history of the NRA with the stories of those who have been tragically affected by gun violence, but the result feels way too busy and like it wasn’t able to explore any of these ideas with enough depth.
There are some really good interviews in the movie, but Ehrlich’s mistake is that he doesn’t find a good enough angle for his story. Ultimately, the audience needs a perspective that they can identify with, and Ehrlich’s film features so many voices coming from different sources (even if they are mostly in agreement) that it is difficult to find one.
As a movie advocating for stricter gun control laws, it’s pretty middling. There have been films that have had a much greater emotional impact in regards to this issue, which would have made the point ring true. A lot of the incidents discussed in the movie are higher-profile cases of gun violence which have already been well documented by the media and other films.
However, the movie is much more effective as an angering portrait of how the American government has deceived its people. It’s obvious that there are a lot of shady goings on in Washington, but interviews with politicians and activists show how this organization that is seemingly insignificant on paper became such a formidable foe for progress.
The presentation is very methodical, seemingly because this film’s purpose is less about being seen by consumers and more about making its point. For better or worse, Ehrlich would seemingly be happier with one audience member walking away enlightened than a bunch of viewers seeing the movie and being unmoved.
The Price of Freedom isn’t the stirring call to action that it obviously hoped to be, but there is enough good here to make it a solid entry point for those who are yet to be informed on the issue. Its overstuffed nature is what is going to drag it down.
The Price of Freedom hits theaters on July 7.