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Bully (2001)

  Directed by: Larry Clark
Starring: Brad Renfro, Nick Stahl
Links: Bully on the IMDb, Buy on Video, Buy on DVD
Genre: Based on True Story

This movie gets: 9.00 (1 rating)
nofreelist.com Ranking: not yet ranked (awaiting 2 ratings)

Bully (2001) is also mentioned in andy-j's review of Ken Park (2002).

"When Best Friends Go Bad" - a review by andy-j

Bully is a film directed by Larry Clark, the man behind the controversial Kids (1995), and it keeps up the no-holes-barred and rule-breaking standards that he established in his first film.

Bully is about two supposedly-best friends, Bobby and Marty, and the physical and emotional abuse that Marty constantly heaps onto Bobby. When Bobby gets himself a girlfriend (who cares for him way more than he cares for her), she convinces him that the only way to stop this abuse is to murder Marty. So they gather a band of inexperienced and naive friends and plot to kill him.

There are a few things about Bully that make it such a rewarding experience. Firstly, this movie is based on a true story. While "based on" usually means "stretching the truth" (The Mothman Prophecies (2002) is a prime example), at least one of the most dramatic parts of the film - the closing scenes - is all truth. Having the "truth" element adds a lot of weight to the film's creditibilty, gives it a real purpose and makes its message all the more meaningful. That's a big difference from the telling a fictional (and, some would say, exaggerated) story to try to get a point across - like Natural Born Killers (1994) did, where everything was crammed down the viewer's throat. Bully doesn't need to do that, it just tells us what happened, and it's an intense and very involving story.

The second stand-out element to this movie is the characters. They are all well-rounded, believable, and charismatic (or not, in some cases). And they are all played very very well by great actors (Brad Renfro as Marty is particularly good). We spend a lot of time getting to know the teenagers, and we see what they do, get an insight in how they think. They are sometimes surprising, often very deep and very very interesting and they drive the story forward (much like the characters in Kids did).

Finally, I have to commend Larry Clark's no-holes-barred style of movie making. This movie features some shocking violence, it contains bad language, there is sex and nudity and drug usage. But it never feels like it's there as a way to draw attention or criticism to the film - it's all there as a part of the story, it often gives the characters their depth and strengthens the underlying themes, and it never feels tacked-on.

Bully is a movie I suspect I will be watching again and again, as it manages to combine some great acting, watchable characters and a very interesting story into a very satisfying viewing experience.

andy-j gives this movie 9 out of 10.
Review created on Thu 28 Nov 2002

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Reader comments

  1. First of all It was bobby that was mistreating Marty not the other way around. Secondly i do agree with everything else you said about how remarkable this film really is.
    No true story film has made me want to find out more about what actually happened except this movie. The emotions that i felt whilst watching the movie went from the highest high to the lowest low with these characters.
    I do think that this movie is a little too much but i do think that all of the scenes were a necessity to let the viewers experience as much as they can without living that life.
    I have to say that my favourite scene was the murder scene where the music the acting everything was so powerfull that it made me get goosebumps. I know how these kids felt when they feel that the only option is death, I was lucky i had the guidence that got me through they were unlucky kids, they chose the death and now Marty and Lisa pay the ultimate price. They do not get to see each other or the child that they brought into this world through love.
    My heart goes out to their daughter and to each of them.
    2 hands up to Larry Clarke for a brilliant movie that i watch when ever i feel down.

    Rating given: 10

    A comment from Michelle on Mon 08 Sep 2003 17:47 #

  2. the bollocks

    Rating given: 9

    A comment from dave on Mon 09 Feb 2004 22:25 #

  3. The characters were acted out very well in this movie, and the director did a great job.

    Rating given: 10

    A comment from Beth on Fri 26 Mar 2004 18:38 #

  4. I thought the movie was really good .. but i really like all Larry Clarks movie .. I really loved kids

    Rating given: 10

    A comment from Bailey on Thu 30 Jun 2005 16:03 #

  5. one f the best movie's ive ever seen

    Rating given: 10

    A comment from lozza on Wed 05 Jul 2006 23:01 #

Those who have commented give this movie: 9.80 (5 ratings)

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