directed by Larry Clark
(Lions Gate, 2001)

Bully is based on a true high school crime that took place in Cooper City, Florida. Boyhood friends Marty Puccio (Brad Renfro) and Bobby Kent (Nick Stahl) traveled in the same circles of casual drug use and loose women with a group of friends who rarely attended classes. Bobby bullied Marty their entire lives, raped both Marty and their girlfriends, and pulled aggressive stunts such as capturing a local drifter and forcing him to perform homosexual acts on camera.

Director Larry Clark presents a gripping portrait of bullying and submission, and of how hard it is to stand up to the bully when he's been in power for a good 16 or more years.

With the high school sexual acts and drug use, this film will inevitably be compared to Clark's earlier work, Kids. Bully, however, is based on a true crime with copious court records, confessions, witness statements and a nonfiction book about the subjects. Any reviewer who attacks the plausibility of the film needs to look no further than Martin Puccio vs. State of Florida, Appellee. No. 86,242; Nov. 20, 1997. Clark takes the facts of the case and presents a movie illustrating the fear and loathing of someone who submits to a bully, and makes the viewer understand how hard it is to stand up and change the status quo.

Bully is told from the point of view of the teens involved in the group murder of Marty's tormentor. The question of ultimate responsibility for the crime is answered only in the court sentences, not by the filmmaker. This is a great discussion piece -- does bullying invite crimes of self-defense? Was Lisa Connelly the ringleader or did Marty grow a backbone? Was Marty manipulated by yet another bully, Lisa, when he went along with her plan? Did an atmosphere of money, drugs and plenty of free time create the perfect storm for a mob-mentality murder? How much do absent parents play into a tragedy of this proportion?

Clark has no simple Hollywood answer to any of these questions. Therein lies the beauty of this film.

review by
Jessica Lux-Baumann

6 October 2007

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