In an effort to once again prove to readers of this blog that I’m not just a blockbuster dullard who watches stuff like Transformers on a loop, pausing every 20 minutes to bash one out to either Megan Fox’s physique or Optimus Prime’s perfectly rendered face, I watched Bully– a film with no robots, no tie-in video game, but acres of gratuitous naked teen flesh and shocking violence. I can only pray that a video game is in the works.
“Angst” is an annoyingly misused word. Chances are you’ve heard of “teen angst” thanks to overhyped toss like Skins and the like. It’s all very patronising. It’s all so middle-aged bankers can neatly label the odd behaviour of their skull-fucked teens and get on with their boring lives. Bully redefines angst and unease and conveys it so damn well, it’ll leave your mind reeling for longer than you’d like to admit.
Bully tells the story of Marty (Brad Renfro) and his gang of waster friends who are driven to the point of desperation due to the actions of a bullying, fucked-up, A-grade wanker by the name of Bobby Kent (Nick Stahl). After some pushing by his girlfriend Lisa (Rachel Miner), Marty decides that Bobby needs to be forcibly removed from this mortal coil. The plot is gripping from the off, especially so as it is based on a true story. It’s a genuinely chilling thought that the things that transpire in this film actually happened- something which works to the film’s credit. The leads are brilliant without any real exception, although Michael Pitt’s stoner Donny did grate slightly- a small annoyance counteracted by the fact that he has nearly all the best lines.
The central tragedy of Bully is that these kids are dealing with shit way above their comprehension. When the idea of killing Bobby first comes up, it’s said in a flippant, jokey-type way and their plan never really evolves past that. We identify with the motivation, but know deep down the gang are too youthfully stupid to carry it out properly. This is typified when they hire a “hitman” (Leo Fitzpatrick) on some vague recollection he has ties with the Mafia. Once (invisotexted) Bobby has bought the farm, it’s pretty heartbreaking to see the strong group break down due to guilt and fear and start blaming each other.
Bully is a tough, but rewarding watch. Some of the scenes are almost unbearably unpleasant to view but stick it out, oh fictional fan of my reviews- you’ll thank me eventually. One scene in particular where our clueless crusaders put their macabre plan into action is so fucking tense, I had to talk myself down from leaping out of the nearest window just to escape the gritty harshness on screen. Bully is also fantastically shot, with director Larry Clark’s love of the teenage form on full display. It’s all shot in such a way that you as the viewer feel like an intruder on these kids’ lives, rather than just a casual observer.
So yes, Bully is a superb film. It’s a fantastic insight into the extremes of human behaviour packaged up as a powerful 113 minute punch. It’s certainly not the sort of film you put on after a long, shit day to forget all your troubles as more often than not, Bully is about as cheery as a mass kitten burial. However, you should make time to watch it. It’s brilliantly affecting and affectingly brilliant.