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3 reviews, 13 user ratings

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Ken Park
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by John Rice

"'Kids' revisited and refined, but not exactly better."
3 stars

Director Larry Clark is a mixed bag as a filmmaker. He is often bashed by mainstream critics for his gratuitous sex scenes involving barely legal age teens and simultaneously touted by renegade critics as someone willing to push any boundary en route to making his point. I'm not sure either of these two camps is exactly wrong or right. Nonetheless, I do find his films intriguing as well as palpably unpleasant.

Ken Park is the third in a sort of unofficial "Teen Trilogy" by Clark, starting with his critically acclaimed Kids and followed by the significantly less respected Bully. The only one of the three with any semblance of a conventional narrative is Bully, which is based on actual events, following a group of teens as they plan and carryout the murder of an abusive member of their group. Kids and Ken Park are similar to each other since they simply "document" a group of teens as they stroll down the path of self destruction.

The film opens with a short exposition on the title character, a fairly normal looking, red headed teen riding a skateboard. We learn he is the owner of a name that is quite unfortunate when pronounced backwards, but otherwise he seems pretty much like any kid walking down the street. He arrives at a skateboarding park, takes off his backpack, sits down, places a video camera on the backpack pointed up at his face, pulls out a 9mm handgun and distributes his brains on the concrete. There is no holding back here. From the trajectory of the bullet to the blood spattered on the video camera lens, it's all there. Still, it comes across as definitely not glorified. It is the matter-of-fact, unrestrained way in which it is shown which keeps it from being gratuitous in some twisted way.

From that point, the film progresses through a series of vignettes showing various teens and their generally careless, often dangerous and occasionally downright psychotic behavior. Some of their parents seem quite responsible and normal, while others are even more messed up than their kids. There are several sexual encounters which become more bizarre and disturbed with each occurrence.

As the movie continued, I almost forgot about Ken Park himself and what meaning he may have for the story. He did not appear and his name was not mentioned again until the final minutes, only shortly after it had occurred to me how his story fit into the rest of the events I was watching. That connection is quite subtle but impressed me with its profound meaning. Unlike Kids, which ends with one of the characters waking up in a drugged stupor, asking "what happened," Ken Park ends with a gentle wave of recognition. A wave which is so gentle, it is easy to miss. (This review originally appeared on Slacker-Reviews.com.)

"Ken Park" is, without a doubt, subject to taste. It is not exactly a bold observation that the behavior exhibited by its characters is destructive. In fact, it is a point which can be expressed much more tastefully than it is here, but this is Larry Clark (OK, he's co-credited as director with Ed Lachman) and Larry Clark doesn't work that way. Considering Clark already made "Kids" seven years earlier, it is also more than a bit of a retread, but hey, if Alfred Hitchcock can make "The Man who Knew too Much" twice, I suppose Larry Clark can revisit "Kids."

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=8101&reviewer=373
originally posted: 08/09/04 00:28:45
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 Sydney Film Festival. For more in the 2003 Sydney Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

7/24/13 Langano Realistic & raw look at teenage life. 4 stars
12/06/09 mr.mike Note to Larry Clark: You can't go home again. 2 stars
8/23/08 BoyInTheDesignerBubble The best movie to come out of America in years. 5 stars
3/13/08 bmepainolympian like gummo without the talent 2 stars
3/03/07 Shobert More of the same from Clark. 1 stars
1/27/07 Sugarfoot Not as awful as Kids, but just as repellent. 1 stars
3/30/06 Tom Muther Gratuitous, graphic, and wildly uneven--a pretentious ogle fest with little to recommend it 1 stars
11/11/05 billy bob joe great movie.not for all tastes 5 stars
11/02/05 ernesto i have 17 years old and i recently wachted the movie and i certently love it. 5 stars
6/30/04 jercy good 5 stars
4/10/04 Erik Lichter a very interesting angle to society. never before has a movie challenged society today.. 4 stars
3/09/04 Morally Sound Puts the envelope through a paper shredder, then burns it, then pisses on its ashes. 4 stars
8/17/03 Zargo Great moive, I love anything that pushes the envelope a little, but also inteligent 5 stars
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