Somehow I missed the Second Amendment-themed action flick “The 2nd” when it was released on demand back in September, but it’s become a surprisingly big hit on Netflix after being added to the streaming service last week. When I sat down with the lovely Miss E to watch the flick on Wednesday evening, it was (appropriately enough) the second-most popular offering on Netflix at that time, and as of this writing it’s the most popular movie on the platform.
Is it worth an hour and a half of your life? Does it deliver a pro-2A message or is it another Hollywood offering that treats the right to keep and bear arms as a fatal flaw in the Constitution? Well, if you like cheesy action movies inspired by Die Hard and Taken, I think you’ll enjoy it. Just don’t expect a deep dive into the right to keep and bear arms at any point in the film. It’s a fun and largely mindless shoot-’em (and stab ’em, and punch ’em, and explode ’em) up flick, but the Second Amendment has surprisingly little to do with the movie itself.
The right to keep and bear arms serves mostly as a plot device, as the film revolves around a Supreme Court justice who’s struggling to decide how he’ll cast his deciding vote in a case that will determine whether Americans have the right to own a gun at all. There’s no mention of the Heller case in the movie, so it’s unclear whether this takes place in some alternate universe where that question wasn’t addressed by the Supreme Court in 2008, or if this some new legal challenge. In fact, we never learn any details about the case at all, only that the opinion has yet to be written, but is due to be released imminently.
Without getting too deep into spoiler territory, bad guys (led by Casper Van Dien, who was the primary reason my wife agreed to watch The 2nd with me) decide that they’re going to nudge the judge into the “correct” decision by kidnapping his daughter, and it’s up to former Delta Force member and current Secret Service agent Vic Davis (played by Ryan Phillippe) and his college-aged son Sam to take on the bad guys after they’re inadvertently thrust into the middle of the kidnapping at a California college that’s closing for the Christmas holidays.
The 2nd is mostly apolitical on the Second Amendment itself, but when screenwriters Eric Bromberg and Paul Taegel do broach the issue, they do so with a decidedly pro-2A slant. At one point (again, keeping it vague and spoiler-free), a gun control advocate who desperately wants the Supreme Court to decide there is no right to keep and bear arms wistfully speaks about the heaven on earth that is to come once guns are banned, even unironically proclaiming that the country will be a gun-free “utopia.”
It’s clear that the monologue isn’t meant to be inspirational. Instead, it’s a moment of hypocrisy on the part of the character, who, like real life anti-gun activists like Michael Bloomberg, have no trouble with their people being armed. It’s we the People having the right to keep and bear arms that’s the problem in their view.
The screenwriters also use the right to keep and bear arms to help develop the characters of Vic and Sam Davis. Vic’s an unabashedly pro-gun veteran and Secret Service agent, and he’s taught his son how to hunt, fish, and shoot, even if Sam’s more interested in being a theater major than an outdoorsman. Over the course of the movie Sam gets to put both his acting chops and his gun handling prowess to use, and even finds a newfound appreciation for dad along the way.
It’s not all menfolk doing the fighting, however. Erin Watson, the daughter of the Supreme Court justice and the target of the baddies, (played by Lexi Simonson), knows her way around a blade and she gets the chance to show off her swordsmanship in a climactic scene in the film, as she battles one of several female villains who are part of the assembled team of kidnappers.
Now, I want to be sure to set some realistic expectations here. This is not the next Die Hard, no matter how much it might want to be included in the pantheon of Christmas-y action movies. It’s a B-movie, and it shows. No official budget figures have been released, but The 2nd was part of a 17-picture deal where the combined budgets of all 17 movies was going to be around $75-$90-million. That would put the budget for The 2nd between $4.4-$5.2-million, which looks about right.
There are also some pretty big plot holes in The 2nd, and the Hollywood rules of gunfighting definitely apply. My wife counted 34 shots from a pistol with a standard capacity magazine at one point, and I’m pretty sure that there were a dozen or more rounds fired from a revolver as well, but if inaccuracies like that don’t bother you too much, The 2nd is a fun popcorn flick that’s worth 90 minutes of your time. It also leaves itself wide open for a sequel, so maybe we’ll get to learn a little more about that Second Amendment case in the next installment. Will they go with The Second 2nd, The 2nd Squared, or The 2nd Part II, I wonder?