Cool. A film about teenagers that doesn’t treat them like teenagers.
Bobby (Nick Stahl) takes great joy in bossing around and beating up his best friend, slovenly ex-surfer Marty (Brad Renfro). But when Marty’s girlfriend (Rachel Miner) witnesses one too many of these incidents, she vows to kill Bobby, enlisting her friends — and a hit man — to help.
Director Larry Clark is a dirty son-of-a-bitch who seems like he has only one subject he does in every film: naked and dumb teenagers. However, naked and dumb isn’t always that bad.
The first 45 minutes or so of this film is basically just a bunch of wild and young teenagers having sex, getting high, being dumb, and not giving a shit of what they do next. You know, the finer things in life. This actually bothered me because I know that it was building up its story and characters but when you have them set up like this, it’s almost too hard to understand where this film is trying to go, and what’s it even all about. Thankfully, it went somewhere.
What Clark does well here is that he actually brings so much to this disturbing true-story and makes so much of it seem so much more real than half of the crap we see on Lifetime. In Bully, there are barely any or little parents involved or shown in this story, and it is practically up to these teens to make up their own decisions on what they want to do, with no real motivation or someone there to tell them what’s right. This spoke very very true to me because these kids are all victims and want to hurt the closest thing to them that’s hurting all of them. Which in this case, is a fellow teenager.
There are some truly disturbing and downright horrific scenes within this film and truly brings you into this world where the teens live free, and don’t have a single care in the world. There’s an under-lining sadness to this whole film because these kids don’t know what their doing so by trying to take another life into their own hands and hopefully getting rid of the problem, when in reality, it’s only creating more and more problems for them. I was shocked by what I heard, saw, and actually thought which was used well for this film but that only went on for so long.
The problem Clark runs into with this film is that too much of this feels like the same crap we see time-and-time again, with nothing really new even happening and a story that wants to get off the ground, but doesn’t know how to move. Clark tries so hard to shock any yuppie-parent that would dare watch this film with the drugs, the sex, and the crime, that he actually starts to lose the people who are watching and to be honest, he kind of lost me at one point.
Moments in this film rang true, such as how messed up these kid’s lives were and how they got away from all the pain they suffered, but that doesn’t mean some parts weren’t put-on. Kids don’t drop acid everyday, kids don’t do as much sex in one day without even the thought of getting pregnant, and kids certainly as hell do not dissolve their precious little friendships by stabbing a kid 40 times to death. If it weren’t for this actually being a true story, I would have thought that Clark got a little out-of-hand but the sad thing is that it is a true story, and disturbing one to say that.
All of the young cast members were great. Brad Renfro plays Marty, Bobby’s “best-friend”, and is stunning in this performance because just by looking at his eyes and face, I could exactly what emotions he was feeling and what certain moment. His emotions go crazy throughout the whole film and you’re kind of left wondering just what this kid will do next. It’s a shame that Renfro is now gone, because this kid could have honestly had such a bigger career.
Rachel Miner plays Marty’s sweet and innocent girlfriend, Lisa, who does a great job especially in the last 20 minutes where her character really starts to get a little crazy; Bijou Phillips is great as the town whore, Ali, who proves that even if you do have some nice T & A, you still have to be able to show it off well which is something she does perfectly; and Michael Pitt is also pretty good as Donny, even though his character’s main thing is that he’s just stoned the whole time.
Nick Stahl probably gives his best performance ever as the “Bully” Bobby Kent. Bobby is a total asshole that rapes girls, and practically takes any advantage he can of his friend, which gets so bad that he even takes his girl. Stahl plays this perfectly because he has that under-lining sense of range within him but also that sweetness behind those eyes that makes you wonder if you feel bad or hate this kid. It really seems like a hard character to pull of but somehow Stahl does it well. Now if only he got his damn ass out of those straight-to-DVD pieces of crap, and did more stuff like this.
The one thing about Bobby and all of these other characters is why exactly did Bobby treat Marty like his little bitch and why didn’t Marty just stand up for himself. I mean the whole first 45 minutes is not only sexy-time and getting high, but there are also scenes where Marty is being terribly manipulated by this menacing asshole and Marty does nothing except punch him once, and that was it. There would be a point for me where I would just stand up and have to lay down some whoop-ass on little olde Bobby.
I also never understood why anybody actually did stand up to him and beat his ass especially after the rape he performed, because if any person I knew was in this film, they would know that rape, no matter who or what it’s on, is not a good thing and whoever feels the need to perform it on another, deserves to get a serious beating. I’m not saying death should be allowed, don’t get me wrong here, but sometimes you have to let the raper know that RAPE ISN’T RIGHT. Sorry for the rape rant, I just felt like it was needed for this subject of the film.
Consensus: Director Larry Clark’s Bully is a challenging film at the most. The story is dark, sad, and pretty disturbing with some real chilling honesty and brutally painful moments shown from the cast, but then all of the greatness of this film is lost within pacing issues, too repetitive sex and drug-use, and just some problems with how it all played out I still don’t understand.