If you didnít get enough from the controversial film Kids, then wait until you attempt to digest Bully. If you havenít seen any of the films by Larry Clark (there arenít many of them) then youíll be in for a shocker. Clark is not afraid to cross lines, and not afraid to cause controversy. He holds nothing back , and itís up to you to sit through it.
Based on a true story, Bully takes place in 1993 southern Florida. Seven kids live aimlessly in an all-too familiar middle-upper class neighborhood with nothing to do. Only one of them, Bobby Kent (Nick Stahl) is college bound, and he happens to be the bully. The rest of them are all high school dropouts that pass the time by driving their nice cars and hanging out in the arcades and strip malls. They donít appear to be any different than normal teenagers, despite the abundant use of drugs. They live in a (real) normal city with normal parents.
Bobby is known as the bully for the way he treats everyone. His best friend Marty Puccio (Brad Renfro) has been putting up with his abuse since early childhood. Theyíve grown up together in the nightmarish city of Ft. Lauderdale, and theyíve been there ever since. Bobby forces him to do bizarre things such as getting on the stage at a gay strip club, where afterwards he accuses him of enjoying it. The details in the film will lead you to believe that it is Bobby is homosexual, but we never learn for sure. He does however, rape Ali Willis (Bijou Phillips) who is a friend of Lisa Connelly, (Rachel Minor) the girlfriend of Marty.
The circle of friends I have mentioned are close in the movie. They are always hanging out, even though it always involves smoking weed, dropping acid, and having explicit sex. In between all of these events, Bobby bosses Marty around, and makes fun of the girls, degrading them in the worst ways. One day, it pushes Lisa too far, after witnessing how brutal Bobby is to her boyfriend, and proposes to Marty that they kill Bobby.
Right off the bat, Iíll tell you that Bully isnít easy to stomach. It was too rough for an R certification, so it was released without a rating. Iíve seen the Blockbuster rental version, as well as the DVD. Both are graphic, but the purchasable Theater version DVD is even worse.
Larry Clark is known for his exploitation of young actors, never afraid to show you anything. The nudity is heavy, and whenever the cast is wearing clothes, the camera is always up-close on certain regions. Much of it is pure exploitation, and could; should have been done without. But as Roger Ebert said, only directors that passionate about the subject, should be making this kind of movie.
In order to enjoy Bully, you have to get past all of the gratuitous sex scenes, but that is easier said than done. But there is more good in Bully than evil. Clark does a fascinating job depicting seven young kids try to plot the murder of their friend, in every painful step and detail.
Part of the problem may be that this movie is too real. Hearing the F word in every other sentence, or every sentence depending on whose talking, may just actually be how todayís youth converse with one another. The acting was too realistic, probably because Clark took the time to search city nightclubs for teens to play the roles. Thereís nothing synthetic about the making of Bully. Clark even moved to Hollywood, Florida, and in the exact same suburb where the murder took place.
In Bully, you see it all; the premature planning of the murder, the hiring of a supposed hit man because they need help pulling it off, the murder taking place, the reactions and denials, and the trial. Each step of the movie, (interrupted by scenes of nudity many times) is chillingly explored. Like the high school shootings, these kids go through the same stages. The thoughtless planning, acquiring of the weapons, and talking about the crime after it happens. You get a sense of what the actual kids must have gone through after the crime took place, needing a friend outside of their evil circle to vent to.
Whatís more fascinating, is the way Clark maps the young mind to how he believes it to be true. Itís easy for all of them to admit they were a part of the murder, but nobody admits that he/she was the one to actually end Bobbyís life, the one who actually delivered the fatal blow. If you let yourself become a part of the movie, you can relate to what they all go through. Clark does such a good job, you automatically begin to think what you would do if you were in that situation.
It doesnít make it easier to know that this event truly did happen. If you watch the DVD, you can see the mug shots of the actual people, as well as the reactions of the cast who played them. The movie was shot in the same Pizza-Hut where the real kids planned the murder, and it was filmed on the same beach where the kids went afterwards to come up with their alibis. Yes, that part came after the murder took place, showing how ill-prepared the kids were, and how spontaneous LisaĎs decision was to want Bobby dead.
You canít help but wonder how those kids could convince themselves to pull off the crime. Thereís nothing fantastic about the city they live in. And the parents are innocent, although oblivious to what their children do, they are not bad people. Bobbyís dad is always on him to strive in school. Lisaís mother is always checking up on her, thinking the kids in her bedroom are just playing scrabble, not figuring out the proper way to hold a gun.
While Clark may have not recreated the events completely accurate, as many people who claim to know the real life people say it was not like that, Bully defiantly gives you a new perspective into the minds of those corrupt teens, and how they could pull themselves together to commit such a heinous crime. Gratuity and exploitation aside, Bully was a well made, solid movie. The controversial reaction and uproar that followed its release, proved it.