Bully (2001)
Trimark Home Video
Cast: Brad Renfro, Nick Stahl
Extras: Theatrical Trailer, Cast & Crew Interviews, Music-only Track

Larry Clark, the director responsible for the disturbing and ultimately unwatchable ’Kids’, returns with a film, which is much better than his first effort, but no less revolting. In ’Bully’, Brad Renfro stars as Marty, a likable slacker who enjoys surfing and spending time with his friend Bobby (Nick Stahl). Unfortunately, Bobby has a bad habit of hitting Marty and raping Marty’s female friends. Lisa (Rachel Miner), Marty’s new boyfriend, can’t stomach the Bobby’s behavior, so she decides that the only way to stop him is to kill him. She recruits a group of lowlife teens to help carry out the nefarious deed.

’Bully’ is a film playing like the quintessential car-crash from which one can’t turn away. Clark spends far too much time in the first hour of the film focusing on the depravity of the sex and drug addicted teen characters. But, the movie definitely picks up in the second half, once the murder plot begins. While the activities portrayed in ’Bully’ are disturbing enough, its the tone of the film that is truly eerie. Based on a true story, the film presents us with a group of characters who seemingly have no morals. They view the murder simply as something to do for kicks. And in a move, which is either poor filmmaking, or a stroke of genius to drive home the point of the film, Bobby is portrayed as someone who doesn’t deserve to die. Sure, he’s a jerk, and a criminal, but he’s no worse than the irritating characters in a dozen other films. Clark has shot most of ’Bully’ in a cinema verite style, which only heightens the reality of the film. Add to that the strong performances given by most of the cast, especially Renfro, and the result is a film that will sicken most, but is eye-opening nonetheless.

Lion’s Gate Home Entertainment shoves ’Bully’ onto DVD in a sparse, but attractive package. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and is in anamorphic widescreen. The image is clear and sharp, showing only minute grain at times, and no distortion. Nor are there any overt problems created by artifacting or edge enhancement. The colors are fine and the image is never soft or overly-dark. The Dolby Digital 5.1 audio gives us clear dialogue with no hissing. There is a fair amount of surround sound and reasonably good bass response, mostly from the hip-hop soundtrack. The theatrical trailer for the film is included on the DVD, as are interviews with the cast & crew, where they discuss the making of the film and the feeling of working on a movie based on reality.