By Daniel Barnes
*Opening today at the Presidio Theater in San Francisco, the Rialto Cinemas Elmwood in Berkeley, and the New Parkway in Oakland.
Many critics have already referred to the scalding 3 ½ Minutes, Ten Bullets as “timely” or “relevant.” When was this story ever not timely and relevant? On Black Friday in 2012, African-American teenager Jordan Davis was murdered at a Jacksonville gas station, gunned down by a white man who fired wildly into his vehicle over an argument about loud rap music. Marc Singer’s infuriating documentary follows the resulting murder trial, where the defense leaned heavily on Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law, which permits citizens to use deadly force when their life is threatened, even if that threat is imaginary. This was the same Florida law used to acquit the murderer of Trayvon Martin, and Singer makes a powerful and convincing (albeit none-too-subtle) case that in an American society trained to fear black men, “Stand Your Ground” amounts to legalized modern-day lynching. While the defense attorney seeds doubt about Jordan and courts sympathy for an unremorseful defendant, Singer shows us the immense burden placed on Jordan’s anguished parents. The more that the trial focuses on blaming the victim and shielding the shooter, the more that they can sense justice – and their son – slipping away from them. Singer keeps this intelligent outrage-inducer blisteringly paced and mostly restrained, although it gets a little glib in the final stretch.