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Starring Brad Renfro, Rachel Miner, Nick Stahl, Bijou Philips
Screenplay by Zachary Long and Roger Pullis
Based on the book by Jim Schutze
Directed by Larry Clark

IN SHORT: Larry Clark does it to (us) again. [Not Rated. 106 minutes]

There are at least three kinds of movies, two of which we'll talk about here. The first delivers a life enervating story of a group of teens determined to make their own Destiny, and overcome all obstacles in their path. To face their challenges and/or enemies head on and to overcome them in whatever manner the movie's creator has chosen.

Fame was such a flick. So was Saturday Night Fever. Then there is what director Larry Clark likes to do, in this case deliver a story of a group of teens determined to make their own Destiny, overcome all obstacles in their path and turn our stomachs in the process. To be fair, one of the first things you learn in Film School is that any film which manages to evoke a strong emotional reaction is a success, good or bad or unpleasant. Clark prefers the latter. In his choices, he manages to find crackerjack casts and gets them to deliver absolutely killer performances. Yep, Bully is incredibly unpleasant to sit through; it's not for kids and it's not for teens and it's not rated because it bluntly portrays a social level where the kids run almost unchecked. There is substantial nudity and violence and sex and doping, just the kind of stuff that we usually find in teen comedies. Bully ain't no teen comedy. It's damned fine by-the-book filmmaking which we do not recommend you spend your money at, unless you've already been exposed to films like Kids or Another Day In Paradise or prefer challenging films that don't give a damn about trying to redeem their characters in any way.

In this case, that obstacle is named Bobby Kent (Nick Stahl) and he is the top dog of their particular circle in Hollywood, Florida. Bobby has been lifelong friends with Marty Puccio (Brad Renfro). He's also about as abusive a human being as you could conceive. He beats and humiliates Marty - and Marty takes it. He rapes Marty's girlfriend, Lisa Connelly (Rachel Miner), not to mention other hangers on and teens from outside the band including Ali Willis (Bijou Phillips), a sometime teen prostitute from upstate (sic) and Donnie Semenec (Michael Pitt), a stoner.

Why do these kidlets tolerate Bobby? Well, there's not much else to do for a bunch of high school dropouts with part time jobs. And Bobby always manages to score the best dope. Lisa, who has fallen madly, passionately in love with (we infer) the first boy she's ever slept with is determined to break Marty of Bobby's hold. That there is an entire cadre of other disaffected teens who spend all their time in a dope haze just makes the idea of removing Bobby, as a source of pain in their otherwise worthless life experience, more and more appealing.

That idea being, if you can't beat it, beat it to death. Or shoot it or stab it -- dope hazes don't lend themselves to coherent thought. That brings us to the final member of our cast, "hitman" (Leo Fitzpatrick) a professed Mafia man who runs a gang called CMF, which stands for something we can't print here. All of them, every scraping off the bottom of the barrel, existed and did the despicable things you'll see in Bully, back in 1993. This is a world in which there is no redemption. No remorse. No way out.

Everybody thinks they're something they're not. Everybody changes in some way. Everybody important has a reason that they are the way they are. And a ton of critics are going to be quoted saying how Bully is must see filmmaking. Which it is, if nihilism is your thing. Just as you despised the bully that may have rubbed your nose in it when you were kidlets, we wonder what the point of having Larry Clark's film do the same to you as an adult. If Bully is intended to be a wake up call to parents, odds are it isn't going to be seen by the parents that need to see it.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Nine Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Bully, he would have paid . . .


Same as Paradise. With the average self-indulgent arthouse flick usually pulling down $4, that marks Bully as a cut above, but strictly from the film school theory POV. There's nothing self-indulgent about Bully. It meets and surpasses every standard laid down by every professor that we ever endured in film school. Of special note -- since we expect good performances out of the hired help (it is their job) are the performances of Brad Renfro, as the tortured soul Marty and Rachel Miner, as his soul support, Lisa.

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The Cranky Critic website is Copyright © 1995  -  2017  by Chuck Schwartz. Articles by Paul Fischer are Copyright © 1999 - 2006 Paul Fischer. All images, unless otherwise noted, are property of,©, ®, their respective studios and are used by permission. All Rights Reserved. Not to be used or copied for any commercial purpose. Academy Award(s) and Oscar®(s) are registered trademarks and service marks of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.