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Site created 12/15/97.


review added: 3/4/02



Bully
2001 (2002) - Lion's Gate

review by Drew Feinberg of The Digital Bits

Enhanced for 16x9 TVs

Bully

Film Rating: C+

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



I 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 Bully.

"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, Bad Lieutenant, 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.

Drew Feinberg
drewfeinberg@thedigitalbits.com




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