Projections - Movie Reviews



The stark adaptation of a brutal murder by teenagers on one of their own who always seemed verbally and physically abusive is Larry Clark's raw, gritty new film, Bully.

Nick Stahl plays Bobby Kent who was killed by his friends on July 14, 1993.

In many scenes as in the first with Brad Renfro's Marty, Bobby's best friend, involved in some striking sexual conversation, a percussive rap score accompanies the ineffectual lives of those unscrupulous teenagers who rallied around the idea to do in someone they hung out with for nearly his whole life.

Bully doesn't have a narrator or specific point of view and Clark's graphic, yet curious film appears to have a cogent feel for America's spoiled children who live for getting laid and high, often simultaneously.  While there is no preaching, most of the characters would appear smarter than their aimless actions dictate, but there seems to be no doubt that smoking a lot of pot and dropping plenty of acid can easily induce stronger tendencies of paranoia.

As Clark intimately takes the view into the irresponsible turpitude of his adolescent bunch, the nefarious act includes slacker stoner Donny (Michael Pitt), the rehabilitated Heather (Kelli Garner) who lives for her peers and Daniel Franzese's Derick, who is more unstable than he lets on.  There also is Leo Fitzpatrick's "Hitman" whom the kids recruit because of his gangland persona; he's seen hanging around with a younger crowd which adds to the unsettling atmosphere of Bully.

Up until the bloody murder in an Everglades setting, Clark does a formidable job in making one attentive to the lives of a few white underachievers.  The act itself, done by three of the half dozen or so on hand, with Bobby lured by the promise of sex from Ali, will probably have you reacting like a couple of those on hand.

Bully may not be that harrowing to those who are in corrections or social services, but Clark isn't afraid to have his young actors disrobed, even as a moralistic tone starts to be felt while the events become more eerie.  Pretentiousness and teen exploitation seem to go hand in hand with this well photographed, almost docudrama which doesn't have narrative clarity as the camera says more than the words.

Maybe Clark doesn't want audiences to reflect interpretively on Bully, just understand that there are plenty of Bobbys out there who revel in debasing what turns them on emotionally and physically, but the more frightening sense that youth is too often obscured or bullied into ill-fated lives that makes short-sighted parents dazed and confused.


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