City Paper is not for tourists.
Fidelis Cloer is a bit like Tony Stark before he went all Iron Man on the terrorists using his supplies. The German armored-car manufacturer profiled in Bulletproof Salesman is blunt about his interests: “Peace? Go away. I want war,” he says. “To me it doesn’t matter who creates the demand.” Of course, protecting people—regardless of who they are or under what circumstances—isn’t exactly the same as selling weapons, so Cloer probably won’t be adopting a superheroic attitude over his profiteering off a global mess. Still, directors Petra Epperlein and Michael Tucker capture hints of melancholy and maybe even a little regret in interviews recorded over five years with their charismatic subject as he details his trade. There are a few Big Bob’s Used Car Lot moments here—“We definitely sell a good feeling,” Cloer says, and he frequently invokes his company’s superiority to the competition. The film feels stretched and repetitive at 70 minutes, and there’s some irritating use of headline-style text to highlight what someone just said. Still, Bulletproof Salesman offers an interesting look at a little-thought-about facet of the war. It’s impressive when Cloer agrees to sit in one of his vehicles while a potential customer shoots at it. And footage of further testing demonstrates that he indeed sells a high-quality product. But the tragedies of the larger picture are addressed, too, such as when Cloer talks about how security companies tend to cheap out when it comes to protecting their employees or confesses what keeps his vehicles on top: “People have to die to improve the product.” —TO