If not so tragic, Tread’s story might fit best in Ripley’s Believe It or Not! What better description is there for a small-town welder who builds an armored bulldozer, weaponizes it, and then takes it on a rampage of revenge, destroying the buildings, homes, and businesses of those he believes ‘wronged’ him? This actually happened in Granby, Colorado in 2004, and that welder’s name was Marv Heemeyer.
Filmmaker Paul Solet begins the film with a recording of a 911 call and news clips of the actual events of June 4, 2004. Solet then proceeds to lay out the backstory of Heemeyer, and how things escalated to the point where destruction and suicide seemed like the only logical step to him. Solet cleverly utilizes Heemeyer’s own self-recording (via audio cassette) as a framing structure for the film. Heemeyer’s voice tells us what his plan was, and why he had reached this level of desperation.
Interviews are key, and we hear from law enforcement officers who were on the scene that day, Heemeyer’s ex-girlfriend Trisha MacDonald, his best friend, a younger man from his snowmobile club, brothers from a family that had supposedly targeted Marv, and a newspaper reporter, Patrick Brower, who also wrote a book on Heemeyer’s rampage. Actual news clips and reenactments are used to show us what those being interviewed tell. In this case, it’s an effective approach.
It’s particularly interesting to hear that Marv was mostly a likable guy who just bumped up against local town and county politics a couple of times. Marv was not part of the ‘good old boys club’ and admits to needing to “teach a lesson” to those he perceived had gone out of the way to make life difficult for him. His bulldozer was a way for him to dole out the justice that was otherwise going unserved.
This is a story of revenge told in a somewhat sympathetic manner towards Marv Heemeyer, a man who considered himself “an American Patriot.” The audiotape is clearly a confession of what he planned (and later carried out), and it was clear he knew this was a suicide mission. Listening to his rants, we assume some form of mental illness was involved, and his best friend describes him as a man who “spent too much time alone.”
The video clips of the carnage, and of the many law enforcement officials on the scene – all of whom were helpless to stop the bulldozer – are captivating and difficult to watch. Fortunately, after the fact, we know that no one died that day other than the man who was responsible. Marv, a man of “righteous anger,” had his day of serving justice and rare ‘Bulldozer Rampage’ headline knocked off the front page one day later by a much bigger story.