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Tread

Jul 30, 2020

Eccentric doc about an angry blue-collar good ol' boy. It actually happened. It's actually amusing if it weren't so bizarre.

Tread

Grade: B

Director: Paul Solet

Cast: Marv Heemeyer

Runtime: 1h 29m

By: John DeSando

“When you visit evil on someone, believe me, it will be visited on you.” Marv Heemeyer

And so, you get to see the most bizarre documentary this year at a time when you may have had just enough of formulaic dramas on demand. Netflix brings us Marv, who is so pissed at the small town of Granby, Colorado, that he outfits a giant Kubota bulldozer like a tank and wrecks a serious number of buildings.  

We don’t remember this tragic and sometimes amusing incident from 2004 because we were grieving the day after for Ronald Reagan.

Now, however, we can relive the bizarre event and give it its just due in Paul Solet’s magnetizing documentary called Tread, for obvious reasons.  I’ve lived in a small town like that (pop about 2000) where life can be unforgiving with slights remembered, rumors deadly, and good ol’ boys rule not always to a working stiff’s benefit.

It’s not important to know who is right or wrong. Rather it is discouraging to know that neither side is right and that provincialism thrives as could be expected in blue collar enclaves where zoning and sewage district decisions are not made by God but by petty bureaucrats, who can change a modest welder’s life to their advantage and his distinct outrage.

After setting the scene of growing acrimony, Solet shows original footage and voiceovers to chronicle the tank’s journey, helicopter and drone shots, and a few restaged moments to try to replicate the eccentricity of the event. Marv’s cassette tape testimony is the most interesting, for he barely reveals his rage in favor of his apocalyptic predictions. No one can stop the giant as it targets the buildings and homes of Marv’s perceived enemies.

Working-class outrage does gets lost in sheer wonder at the forbidding destroyer, perhaps echoing our own numbed inability to stop a pandemic or a destructive political machine. Yet, as almost low-key as this revenge is, it is nonetheless true, and a bit of our outrage rides inside with Marv.

Tread seems to hold our abiding struggles as if in a nightmare where we tread on our perceived enemies and forget the lessons of tolerance our parlous times demand of us. These are, after all, your fellow Americans.

You’ll not move from your seat in disbelief. It makes being cooped up worth while for 89 minutes.

John DeSando, a Los Angeles Press Club first-place winner for National Entertainment Journalism, hosts WCBE’s It’s Movie Time and co-hosts Cinema Classics. Contact him at JohnDeSando62@gmail.com