Thursday, October 27, 2011

#437. Bully (2001)

Directed By: Larry Clark

Starring: Brad Renfro, Nick Stahl, Bijou Phillips

Tag line: "It's 4 a.m... do you know where your kids are?"

Trivia:  The plainclothes officer who arrests Marty is Frank Ilarraza, a real-life police detective who arrested the real Martin Puccio in 1993

Director Larry Clark’s Bully is based on an actual killing that occurred in Florida in 1993. 

Marty (Brad Renfro) and Bobby (Nick Stahl) were the best of friends, but their relationship was far from friendly. Bobby had a mean streak, and liked to bully Marty, lashing out at him both verbally and physically every chance he got. Things went from bad to worse when Marty fell in love with Lisa (Rachel Miner) and Bobby extended his abusive treatment to her as well, going so far as to rape Lisa on a number of occasions. 

With cruelty such as this hanging over their heads day in and day out, it wasn’t long before Marty and Lisa decided they’d had enough, and along with their friend Ali (Bijou Phillips) concocted a plan to murder Bobby. 

But could they deal with the consequences once the deed was done? 

Larry Clark was attacked on several fronts following the release of Bully due to the film's frank depiction of teen sexuality (“It feels like a peek into the closet of a pedophile”, wrote critic Sean Axmaker of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer). Far from being merely exploitative, the depths to which Clark descends in relating this woeful tale works to the advantage of his young actors, who are given more than enough leeway to drive their performances home . I give the stars of this film a hell of a lot of credit; they took chances, and never once shied away when things got raw . 

Nick Stahl is awesome as the abusive Bobby, a kid whose anger may be masking a homosexual attraction to Marty. Renfro, Miner, and Phillips are also superb, the perfect embodiment of burned-out teens from good homes who aren’t going anywhere in life. Filled to the breaking point with confused kids, Bully brings us right into their world of depravation and excess, stupidity and rage. 

If you’re a parent, then I should warn you that Bully will not be an easy film to sit through; it explores a side of teenage angst that will send shivers up your spine. As I watched Bully, I found myself hoping that some sort of “moral to the story” would make itself known, something that might shed a little light on what these kids might have been thinking when they acted as they did. 

Unfortunately, what I was left with was the realization they just weren’t thinking at all.


Anonymous said...

This film is a very challenging one for me because I really did like it but at the same time I felt like there was just way too much sex, nudity, and drugs that didn't do much for the story. However, when it came right down to it, I kept on thinking and thinking about this film and it still will always stick in my mind. So yeah, it's a good film but very hard to watch at points. Nice review man.

DVD Infatuation said...

Dan: I agree that the sex and nudity are extreme, but as you said, this is a movie that gets you thinking, that stays with you for days afterwards. It's a tired cliche, but BULLY pulls no punches, and is definitely difficult to watch (for many reasons). But then, I think that's the point: these kids live disturbing lives, and the film lays it all out there for us to absorb.

Thanks for stopping by, and I'm glad you enjoyed the review!

beep said...

Haven't seen this one, but did see 'Kids' when it first came out. It is also a major slap (perhaps punch) in the face. Imagine a double bill of these two...