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Bully (2001)
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by Matt Mulcahey

"Larry Clark once again walks a fine line between brilliance and kiddie porn"
4 stars

One of the decisive moments in life occurs with the understanding of our own mortality. Not just in the simple sense of “One day I will stop breathing,” but when we first truly grasp the gravity of our actions and the consequences that accompany them. Larry Clark makes movies about characters that have not yet made that realization.

Though Bully dissects the same type of meandering, detached youths as his controversial 1995 debut Kids, the teens of Bully aren’t the same guidance-less nomads from the mean streets of New York City. They’re white, middle-class, suburbanites from South Florida, with parents and siblings who care about them, though they do approach their existences with the same reckless abandon and share the same penchant for drinking, drugging and promiscuous sex.

Based on the novel by Jim Shultze, Bully tells the true story of the 1993 murder of 18-year-old Bobby Kent by a group of fellow teens, including his best friend Marty Pucchio. Marty (Brad Renfro) and Bobby (Nick Stahl) have been friends since either can remember, and since childhood Bobby has had a domineering hold, often violently so, on Marty.

Finally, Marty decides to do something about the perpetual mistreatment he endures from his “best friend.” With a little prodding from his new girlfriend Lisa (Rachel Miner), he decides, rather unemotionally, to kill him. They enlist the help of Lisa’s friend Ali (Bijou Phillips), who Bobby raped, Ali’s stoner boyfriend Donnie (Michael Pitt, adding a little comic relief with his ganja loving and nipple fetish ) and her just out of rehab buddy Heather (Kelli Garner). Lisa’s cousin Derek also comes along for the ride, with a few helpful homicide tips provided by a gangsta wannabe called “The Hitman” (Kids deflowerer Leo Fitzpatrick.)

As with Kids, Clark tries to be provocateur. While the sexual and drug related activities in Kids had an almost documentary-like realism, with the audience an observer peeking in on troubled lives, in Bully Clark makes the viewer feel like a Peeping Tom.

The nudity in the sex scenes is arguably warranted, but the random nudity (i.e. Miner talking on the phone bare ass naked for no apparent reason) and the camera’s penchant for zooming in on risqué sections of young flesh feel sleazy and unnecessary.
The film’s principle weakness comes in the form of scripting, with Stahl’s complex Bobby and most of the other character’s actions left without adequate exploration. Stahl manages to capture both Bobby’s violent outbursts and his smooth, charming side, but he can’t overcome the fact that he simply isn’t physically intimidating enough for the role (unlike the hulking real-life Bobby Kent.)

Of all the characters, Bobby seems to have the brightest future. Instead of working at a fast food restaurant like his high school dropout friends, he’s planning to attend college and start a stereo business with his father. So why is this kid such a prick?

Some of the reasons are hinted at, but not enough. But the real question left unanswered is why Marty puts up with the abuse. It isn’t as if Bobby shows up at his house and drags him into his car. All Marty has to do is stop hanging out with him.

Though Clark initially has trouble reconciling the cinema verite realism of Kids with a slicker, more cinematic, though sometimes self-indulgent (an extended 360 degree pan that distracts and nauseates), style, he manages to put both together beautifully for the eruptive murder scene, and the subsequent breakdown of each character.

Raised on sex and drugs, video games and violence, these adolescents don’t understand what they’ve done. Clark makes the suggestion that they aren’t even capable of that comprehension, robbed of that epiphany of mortality, that moment in which they understand their actions do have consequences.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=5480&reviewer=255
originally posted: 05/21/02 02:44:49
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User Comments

9/13/17 morris campbell sleazy & silly who cares if it true 1 stars
10/05/13 Jeff WIlder Far better than Kids. 4 stars
12/08/09 mr.mike Takes it's time to get going. Once it does , it's on. 4 stars
4/02/09 Dane Youssef Clark is masterful when it comes to showing the ignorance and evil of American adolesence. 5 stars
1/18/09 Ray Stahl,Pitt,Renfro,Garner & Phillips quite good. I liked it, despite gratuitous nudity. 4 stars
11/25/08 CTT Hated the first half, but redeems itself with second half; Clark's best 4 stars
8/03/08 Man out 6 bucks Reviewers polemic over sex, overlooking unfathomable nihilism+insect politics. Clark rules 5 stars
4/16/07 Ando After watching, you say "what the fuck did I just see?" AMAZING!!! 5 stars
1/29/07 Carl A little pointlessly perverted at times and not filmed in the most professional way, Good! 3 stars
1/27/07 Sugarfoot So completely out of touch with reality, that it's shock value works better as comic relief 1 stars
4/12/05 Clubber Lang I normally don't like these plotless, aimless, gritty teenager films, but I liked this one. 4 stars
2/28/05 malcolm gratuitous. the shock is that suburban parents think they're so insulated 2 stars
1/07/05 Ando Sweet ass movie, disturbing, but otherwise great 5 stars
12/06/04 Kurt Cobain Larry Clark's "better" film. 4 stars
9/30/04 Dirkd I liked it, although I can see how some could hate it. 4 stars
6/21/04 neubauten pedophile larry please stop making films - you really suck that bad 1 stars
5/30/04 Daveman Repulsive, gratuitous and idiotic. 1 stars
5/11/04 tammy it was good the book was good too 5 stars
2/14/04 Charles Tatum Shock and yawn 1 stars
2/13/04 I Would Like Kids, only less entertaining and more exploitative. Larry Clark is a pervert. 2 stars
1/06/04 mad ox good movie ,pitty its not atrue account. i talk with marty reguarly 4 stars
12/04/03 Okima Michelle The true look at a true story 5 stars
9/08/03 Fox Mulder On of the worst movies of the last 20 years 1 stars
9/07/03 cheri the best show ever ive seen 5 stars
9/06/03 Shawn Franks it was good but marty is a lil bitch 5 stars
9/03/03 Kyle Scary because it really happened. 4 stars
5/14/03 GGRI Great story telling, too much nudity. Spoiled brats with no ambitions=trouble. 4 stars
5/10/03 amy this movie is the best ever!! 5 stars
4/18/03 LIAM JACKSON good film. a twisted, rapist, bullying closet queerboy:how delightful! 5 stars
4/18/03 Alicia Apodaca Though it didn 5 stars
3/08/03 Jack Sommersby Rides the surface rather than incisively delving down. Sensationalistic & unrevealing. 2 stars
2/16/03 gfdkgjdg the director was prob the only one who enjoyed it. Don't care much for dicks huh, Larry? 1 stars
1/01/03 blaine vogt brilliant, absolutley brilliant i was totally in awe! 5 stars
12/08/02 gina spellbinding 5 stars
11/27/02 Jeremy Thompson Stupid ass movie 1 stars
11/19/02 Ammatai Almost like you're there sometimes 5 stars
11/17/02 Lee It was alright, then again it was 3 am and I was hafl asleep 3 stars
10/15/02 Diana C. The book was much more impressive - I would give the movie 2.5 stars 3 stars
10/15/02 kids Remind me of some kids I know. :( 5 stars
9/17/02 nenus i only went to see it cause i had a homework about it 3 stars
9/08/02 alias fucking brilliant. it's life on the big screen. thanks to all involved. 5 stars
8/22/02 tommy quibblet acurate depiction of the pathetic skinny white guys 5 stars
8/18/02 Joey This is a TERRIBLE fucking movie. I want me 2.50 back. This movie embarassed me! 1 stars
8/08/02 daniboy among the worse movies I have ever seen 1 stars
5/30/02 Phoenix Haunting and hard to get out of your system. Excellent. 5 stars
3/02/02 The Bomb 69 well made, only problem I had were the characters were not explained well enough 4 stars
3/02/02 Rebecca Renfro is great 5 stars
2/26/02 Alan Smithee If you can get past the disturbingly unerotic sex scenes, this movie is quite chilling. 4 stars
2/25/02 Alison its mad 5 stars
2/24/02 EastBayHank more real than you think... 4 stars
2/08/02 A.K. not enough character development, 'Kids' in Florida instead of New York 3 stars
1/30/02 Seth Good premise, but missing something...great acting, great direction 4 stars
9/28/01 Mohammad J. not a masterpiece as some claim but it does look real and Kelli Garner is indeed really hot 4 stars
9/26/01 Pascal solid 5 stars
9/20/01 joh Whoa! I know people exactly like this! this could happen to, or near anyone who reads this! 5 stars
9/19/01 Martin f this movie is typical Clark, it sucks. Clark is a old perverted never-has-been. NAMBLA rep 1 stars
8/26/01 eb67(eb67@earthlink.net) America at its best...great cast 5 stars
8/22/01 Kulex Kelli Garner Is Hot! 5 stars
8/08/01 Lorene Mendoza Fantastic Movie!!! 5 stars
8/01/01 Dale Tartisel Great from start to finish 5 stars
7/28/01 Gay Tooth Fairy Some great shit. Some... Should win best cast at SAG! Not great but very interesting. 3 stars
7/28/01 mahone Muskewitz--lean what a paragraph is! 2 stars
7/15/01 Jade Some will find it to be art, others will call it pornography. A great film nonetheless. 4 stars
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  13-Jul-2001 (R)



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