(2002) - Lion's Gate
by Drew Feinberg of The Digital Bits
Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): B/B/C+
Specs and Features
113 mins, NR, letterboxed widescreen (1:85:1), 16x9 enhanced,
single-sided, single-layered, Amaray keep case packaging, interview
with director Larry Clark, cast interviews, photo gallery,
theatrical trailers (for Bully,
Kids and Another
Day In Paradise), scene access (24 chapters), languages:
English (DD 5.1 and music only track), subtitles: English and
Spanish, Close Captioned
want to give myself an Oedipus-style eyeballectomy. I long to take
one of those Silkwood/12
Monkeys type showers where they scrub off an entire layer
of epidermis. I dream of the full-on Jack Nicholson
Cuckoo's Nest lobotomy that'll
make my memory completely clean and lemony fresh. I have seen the
apocalypse first hand, my friend. Apocalypse, thy name is
"Drew, you must be overreacting!" you're probably
thinking. You are sadly mistaken. Be aware. I'm no prude. I can
handle the hard stuff. I proudly have Happiness,
Dead Alive and another
assorted sundries in my DVD collection; I'm a big boy. But
Bully (loosely based on real
events) made my skin crawl. You'd have to put me in one of those
Clockwork Orange devices that
force your eyes open to ever make me watch it again.
Once Larry Clark's Bully
starts off with shirtless Marty (Brad Renfro... pretty much
shirtless through the whole shebang), dispassionately uttering "I
want to suck your big dick" on the phone, you can tell it's
time to fasten the seat belt and hop aboard the exploitation train.
Marty's best friend is Bobby (uber-evil Nick Stahl), who in the
first 13 minutes of the movie proceeds to punch Marty in the face
multiple times while he's driving, forces Marty (heterosexual, by
the way) to dance at a gay strip club, pimps him out for more gay
phone sex, and, lest I forget, interrupts Marty's coitus by whacking
his girlfriend, Lisa, with a belt, declaring "my turn"
and rapes her and/or him... it's the only sex scene that's actually
not shown onscreen. Don't worry though, soon after the 13-minute
mark, there's a graphic scene of Bobby raping Lisa's best friend Ali
(Bijou Phillips) while forcing her to watch gay porn. Lovely.
Although Marty is physically larger than Bobby, it's established
that Bobby has all the power in the relationship.
Marty's girlfriend Lisa (Rachel Miner, naked more often than a
G-String Diva) gets pregnant,
which is no shocker, considering contraception is a concept foreign
to the kids in Larry Clark movies, and she wants to keep the baby.
But as Nic Cage foreshadowed in Raising
Arizona, "It ain't Ozzie and Harriet," so Marty
knocks her around a little and demands that she have an abortion.
Ain't love grand? Lisa comes to the conclusion that since Marty is
Bobby's bitch, if her posse kills Bobby, she'll have Marty all to
herself. What follows is an incredibly naive and juvenile murder
plot, and then the requisite blabbing and backstabbing.
That's the plot, but it really doesn't seem to be what Larry Clark
is interested in. No, he's much more interested in having us watch
the characters drinkin', druggin', and making whoopee. And most of
all, he loves to show the younguns in various states of undress, to
such a degree that it would make even Roman Polanski cringe. I've
never seen a camera leer over actors as much as in this film. If
ogling were an Olympic sport, Clark wouldn't need to press a French
judge in order to win gold. Bully
is sort of like The River's Edge,
if it was directed by, how shall I put this, a person who is a tad
overly fond of youthful bodies. Clark has some unresolved issues,
that's for sure.
Don't get me wrong. I don't hate this movie. I don't love it
either; it's hard to really "like" a movie of this ilk.
I'm sure its intent was to realistically depict dumb immoral
teenagers doing bad things and make us shudder at the thought that
this isn't really fiction; kids like this do exist. And it succeeds
on that level. Of course, Larry's done three consecutive movies (Kids
and Another Day In Paradise
are the others), along with a few photography books (Teenage
Lust, Heroin, etc.)
on similar subject matter, so I suppose Larry Clark is a guru of
sorts of depravity, especially of the underage variety.
Clark has a natural style that's interesting to watch, and it works
for the subject matter he chooses. He gets authentic performances
from the whole cast. Stahl and Renfro shine in particular as the
ultimate dysfunctional couple. If he could cool it on the whole
pseudo kiddie porn angle, he has an interesting future ahead of him.
Of course, in a Salon
interview, Larry said his next picture is Ken
Park, which he says is about parents and children and "there'll
be more penises than you guys can swallow." Guess you can't
teach an old perv new tricks.
Bully is presented in
letterbox 1:85:1 anamorphic widescreen and it looks swell for a
movie that must have been shot on a shoestring budget. The transfer
is crisp, the colors vivid and there's only minimal artifacting. No
complaints here. On the sound front, the 5.1 Dolby Digital and music
only track are fine. There's no audible distortion, and the
surrounds are used adequately to showcase the soundtrack, filled
with gangster rappers with names like Ghetto Inmates and Smut
Peddlers. You can't make this stuff up.
On the extras front, there's an interview with Larry Clark that
lasts a little over five minutes, but it's hardly what I'd call
meaty. In a nutshell, Larry gushes about how each actor is the best
thing since pork chops and applesauce, which is nice and all, but is
a bit too sycophantic for my liking. He dares to say that Nick Stahl
is comparable to Edward Norton and he sees a young Robert De Niro in
Mike Pitt (Donny, the stoner). Yeah, and I see Katie Holmes as the
next Meryl Streep, and surely Casey Affleck has a Marlon Brando
future ahead of him.
Next up are some substantive individual interviews with the
principal cast members, which are broken up by subject matter, and
last about 20 minutes altogether. In the interviews, they talk about
how they felt about their characters, how they dealt with playing
real people, what it's like working with Larry, and that sort of
thing. The last interview batch is titled How
the Actors Landed Their Roles, where each actor matter of
factly (but jokingly, of course) confesses to sleeping with Larry in
order to get his or her role. Gave me the willies nonetheless.
Then there's a picture gallery of the real people the movie was
based on, featuring the mug shots and the Florida Department of
Corrections website (http://www.dc.state.fl.us/)
where you can get more information about those li'l rascals. I was
appalled to see although they were convicted in 1995, Ali is already
out and Lisa gets out in two years. There goes my Florida vacation.
And to round things out, there's a full-frame, red-band trailer for
the flick... plus, if you click on the Lions Gate Logo, you can
watch back-to-back full frame trailers for Kids
and Another Day In Paradise.
And a word to the wise - you may be under the impression there's a
Larry Clark commentary on this film. Most online stores like Amazon
list this as a feature, but it's not true. You get bupkes, which
means "squat" or "nada" to the folk out there
who don't speak fluent Yiddish. Here endeth the Yiddish lesson.
So do I recommend this DVD? I have no idea. The picture, audio and
extras are certainly decent. If you dig gritty, depressing,
realistic-type flicks, and think that Seventh
Heaven would be great if Larry Flynt directed it, then
Bully is right up your alley.
Or if you have an acquaintance you disdain who pesters you
constantly with observations like "Julia Roberts really should
have more than one Oscar," or "I don't watch movies that
use dirty words, save that kind of talk for the gutter,"
recommend this movie. Explain that it's an inspirational flick like
I Am Sam. It's the cinematic
version of a restraining order - your annoying compadre will never
go within 500 feet of you again.