MOVIES/Ed Rampell

‘Shot’ Takes Aim at Gun Violence

In a militarized, highly policed society awash in weaponry, where the right to bear arms is enshrined as a near-sacred constitutional right, writer and director Jeremy Kagan offers an important new movie about gun violence.

In Shot, Kagan shows us how a random shooting in Los Angeles affects the victim, and the shooter, too. The film features Noah Wyle, co-star on the TV medical drama ER, as Mark Newman, who is accidentally shot by Miguel (Jorge Lendeborg Jr. of Spiderman).

Kagan deploys multiple screen imagery to show us the trajectories of Mark and Miguel in parallel time. Miguel, a bullied teenager, clandestinely obtains a pistol to defend himself against his tormentors. After the gun fires haphazardly, hitting Mark, Miguel is plunged into turmoil as he tries to come to grips with the accident and its dire consequences. Miguel wants to turn himself in but his mother warns him “You’re brown!,” meaning that he won’t receive fair treatment from police, a concern echoed by a parish priest.

Meanwhile, Mark is rushed to the hospital, where he must deal not only with his chest wound but also his estranged and traumatized wife Phoebe (Sharon Leal of TV’s Supergirl series)—and, this being America, healthcare insurance-related rigmarole.

In Shot’s most cinematic scene, Mark has a near-death experience. “When you’re in an emergency room and surgery, there’s a buzz of activity, but I wanted to show a moment when Mark is alone,” the white whiskered Kagan said in an interview with The Progressive.

One of the best things about Shot, which Kagan co-wrote with Will Tamborn and Anneke Campbell, is its spiritual dimension and depth. A rabbi’s son, and no stranger to religious subject matter, Kagan also directed the 1981 screen adaptation of Chaim Potok’s The Chosen and 2004’s similarly Hassidic-themed Crown Heights.

Kagan’s father’s congregation was in Mt. Vernon, New York’s Sinai temple. “He was the first clergyman in New York State to be certified as a psychotherapist,” explained Kagan. “He provided psychological help to his congregants and to others. Mind and spirit leader and healer.”

In Shot, Mark survives his ordeal but must tackle the challenges of living with a disability—and repairing his troubled marriage. At the same time, we see Miguel anguishing over his actions and, against the odds, striving to act ethically.

As if on a collision course, Mark and Miguel meet, face-to-face. This time, however, Mark has armed himself, determined to never again be a victim. Is it too late for Miguel? Despite his contrition, will he suffer a fate worse than that of the man he shot?

In a television and motion picture industry drowning in gunplay and violence, Shot moves to the beat of what transcendentalist Henry David Thoreau called “a different drummer.” Although stylish, Shot is very realistically shot. In order to heighten and intensify this realism, over the course of making his film Kagan told me he conducted extensive research, including observing emergency room conditions.

Kagan has long been among Hollywood’s most progressive directors, which he attributes to “socially committed parents.” In 1975 Kagan directed what’s arguably the era’s definitive “power-to-the-people picture,” Katherine, about the Weather Underground. In 1987 Kagan directed the HBO movie Conspiracy: The Trial of the Chicago 8, and during the Bush regime, the documentary series The ACLU Freedom Files.

While it’s highly entertaining, Shot is very much in the message movie mold, ruminating on the all-pervasive nature of guns in our violence-saturated society. Kagan reflected that with Shot, he has come full circle in his directorial career. “My first job in 1972 was directing an episode of Nichols, a Western TV series with James Garner starring as a sheriff who refused to carry a gun,” he mused.

Shot’s website includes information on gun violence issues, anti-gun organizations and a director’s statement. The movie opened in theaters in Los Angeles, New York, and other cities on Sept. 22.

Ed Rampell is a Los Angeles-based film historian/critic and co-organizer of the 70th Anniversary Commemoration of the Hollywood Blacklist. This originally appeared at

From The Progressive Populist, October 15, 2017

Blog | Current Issue | Back Issues | Essays | Links

About the Progressive Populist | How to Subscribe | How to Contact Us

Copyright © 2017 The Progressive Populist

PO Box 819, Manchaca TX 78652