Published Aug 01, 2001Bully is not a movie for the weak of heart, mind or stomach, an overused cliché, but one appropriate in this context. Bully leaves the viewer feeling sick, dirty and grappling for a firm way to explain and describe this movie, a way that simply doesn't exist. Its stark, unrepentant depiction of teen sex, drug abuse and homicidal violence can be viewed as either social commentary or a crystal clear reflection of the moral decay of today's youth, a collection of disturbing acts and images meant to provoke a response, or simply a movie with no other purpose but to offend?
Whatever the case, Bully is a startling, provocative film that people will be debating over for some time to come, well, those brave enough to view it. However, its most disturbing aspect is that Bully is based on true story. Bully tells the tale of teenager Bobby (Nick Stahl), a sick, sadistic misanthrope who physically abuses and subjugates his best friend Marty (Brad Renfro), rapes Marty's girlfriend Lisa (Rachel Miner) and her friend Ali (Bijou Phillips), abuses their entire circle of friends, and is eventually killed by them because of it after they've decided they've had enough and lure him out to a swamp, where they stab him, slit his throat and cave his head in with a baseball bat and dump his body for the 'gators.
As graphic as Bully is in its frank depiction of drug abuse, promiscuous teen sex and violence (as none of the characters are innocent in this story and you will feel dirty while watching this movie), it is also at times morbidly humorous, even if that is not its intent. Director Larry Clark (of Kids infamy) does an excellent job creating a bleak, oppressive atmosphere throughout, even if his voyeuristic style wears thin at times, and the climatic slaying of Bobby seems somehow subdued (perhaps its intent), however, his portrayal of vacuous, drug-absorbed kids unable to differentiate reality from fiction is remarkable, if not unnerving and worrisome. However, the movies abrupt ending, and the fact that the audience ends up loathing Bobby more than his killers makes for jagged resolution, ending as the killers are caught and sentenced, leaving the viewer feeling disoriented, slightly disturbed and confused. Much like Kids, Bully presents its subject matter without comment, which is its most unnerving quality: it's doesn't condemn, applaud or shrug, it simply tells a horrific tale, leaving it up for the viewer to draw their own moral conclusions.