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Back in 1995, Larry Clark released his debut film "Kids". It had its share
of critical acclaim for its brutal yet honest portrayal of kids in their
early teens. With little or no parental supervision, they led aimless lives
occupied by drugs, sex and a total disregard for authority. Six years
later, Clark is back with "Bully". It could as well be titled "Teenagers"
for it pretty much picks up where "Kids" left off. "Bully" deals with
unmotivated youths who are so engrossed with their own little pathetic
worlds that they have lost the distinction of what is moral and what is not.
What "Kids" couldn't quite achieve in terms of emotional impact, "Bully"
accomplishes it, for Clark gives us a powerfully perturbing film.

Based on the novel by Jim Schutze "Bully: A True Story of High School
Revenge", "Bully" takes us back to a group of friends living in Florida.
Bobby (Nick Stahl) and Marty (Brad Renfro) have been best friends since they
were little, but their relationship is somewhat on the bizarre side. Bobby
bullies around Marty, telling him what to do and what not to do, and Marty
is getting fed up. With little self-confidence and no set goals for the
future, Marty is helpless. That is until he meets Lisa (Rachel Miner), who
falls madly in love with him. Along with her friends, Ali (Bijou Phillips),
Donny (Michael Pitt, who is also in "Hedwig and the Angry Inch") and Derek
(Daniel Franzese), Marty and his new group of friends plan a way to take
care of Bobby and rid themselves of a major prick.

"Bully" is a modern morality tale. These kids have nothing on their minds
except getting stoned, having sex and chatting on their cell phones. They
are only concerned with what happens at the moment and could care less what
comes tomorrow. They have no sense of responsibility whatsoever. Their
bodies might have matured, but their minds have not. With limited parental
intervention, they have led such secluded lives that their sense of morality
and judgment are confined to what is immediately to their benefit without
any thoughts of retribution or consequence. It is not suggesting that all
teenagers act this way. On the contrary, the film has its share of sane and
rational teens, but it is from the other side of the pole that we get to see
the mindlessness of a group of kids.

The film has been criticized for exploiting its youthful cast, with several
scenes of sexuality and nudity, but I beg to differ. I did not think that
any of the scenes were done just for the sake of shocking us, but rather to
show us the reality of how these kids were living. "Bully" has this
everyday life look to it, making it rife with rawness and vigor. The cast
also adds to the film's effectiveness with their very strong performances.
I wouldn't be surprised if some of them make it big in the years to come,
just as Chloe Sevigny ("Boys Don't Cry") emerged from "Kids".

It's been a while since I have seen an excellent film this year (the last
one being "Panic"), and I can safely say that the summer drought is
temporarily over with my viewing of "Bully". Before I went to see it, I
have not read anything about this film in terms of plot or reviews, and I
had no idea who was in it, who directed it and so forth, and boy was I in
for a surprise. "Bully" is one of the best films of the year.


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