Bully (2001)

bully

Though the film has an engaging murder plot, it’s overshadowed by repugnant characterisation.

‘Bully’ gives the viewer an insight into a group of maddeningly awful young people. They communicate in ways that is an affront to the English language; their diction is an ugly mess of incessant swearing and pseudo-ebonics that’s punctuated with an exasperating misuse of the word ‘like’. Worse than their lexicon is their degenerative lifestyles – they’re lazy, feckless, horribly ignorant and amoral. They’ve become so rotten, warped and stagnant whilst living in their scummy Floridian microcosm that they seemingly think their behaviour is acceptable. Well, they probably haven’t considered what’s acceptable or not as they don’t *think* about anything. The film, which is based on the true story, starkly reminds the viewer that there are people out there who are this scuzzy and revolting.

I wanted to hate the film because I hated every character, but the characters were clearly purposefully constructed to be that way. To hate the film for its ugliness could be deemed as missing the point, it’s a depiction of extreme adolescent degeneration, I suppose it’s something of a cautionary tale. Its chief success is how it portrays the ugly messiness of violence; it covers a spectrum of emotions from its characters during the visceral, realistically unpleasant climax, a scene that’s very well constructed by the preceding twenty minutes or so.

However, Larry Clark’s trademark perversion is all over this film, paying gratuitous attention to the bodies and sex of the teenage cast. It’s ultimately rather one-dimensional; its narrative of murder is captivating, but its study of reckless, idiotic culture is quite suffocating. Its absence of any somewhat relatable characters and presence of many detestable ones overshadows the film’s acting and engaging murder plot.

Although it does deserve a degree of commendation, there is ultimately little incentive to watch this film. ‘Bully’ is another lurid Larry Clark film that smacks of attention seeking.

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