Bully (18)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner03/04/2002

Four out of five stars
Running Time: 113 mins

A brutal, though darkly humorous film.

Based on journalist Jim Schutze’s book Bully: A True Story of High School Revenge, Larry Clark’s film received less than overwhelming acclaim when it was released in the US. Part of the vitriol was aimed at Clark himself for what is seen as an interest in teenagers that is not entirely wholesome.

A group of white, amoral teenagers in Florida, loll around, have sex, take drugs and spout the sort of dialogue usually found on rap records. There’s a certain tension between lifelong buddies Marty and Bobby, as the latter apes his own bullying father in the treatment of his pal.

Things come to a head after Marty falls for Lisa, and Bobby, by way of introduction, rapes her friend. A plot is hatched to murder Bobby, but as the combined IQ of the participants barely reaches double figures, things don’t quite go to plan. – "Is he dead yet?" "Getting there".

But it’s not just the kids who are stupid, everyone in the film from the parents to the cops, make you realise just why Florida had such a problem counting the presidential votes.

If there are questions to be asked along the lines of `what kind of society produces kids like this?’ Clark isn’t interested in answering them. In fact, he undercuts any sense of seriousness by focusing on mounds of copulating, teenage flesh. There’s even a crotch shot straight off the top shelf, so in-your-face that to question it would be gratuitous.

In between times the unexpected Cheech and Chong stoner humour lends the film more than a touch of black comedy.

The cast are all superb, providing an almost documentary feel. Nick Stahl, so good in In The Bedroom (probably Bully’s polar opposite), is again terrific here.

In its own strange way, Bully is a brave, uncompromising film and one that could never have come out of today’s Hollywood, not least because of the way it offers pleasure and offence in equal measure.

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