Essentially, this is one hell of a disturbing film. But what makes this even more shocking is the direction of Larry Clark and the dark, gritty way the film is shot. Based on a true story, this film is one that holds nothing back and is disturbing enough to make A Clockwork Orange look tamed. Yet, I find myself loving this film every time I watch it. What can you say? I like good film even if it is this extreme.
As I said, this film is based on a real murder case in the 1990's that involved a group of friends brutally murdering one of them due to his psychotic, brutal, and completely sadistic tensions he posses. I heard about this film one night when I was flipping through the channels on TV one night and I just happen to see the ending. Right when it was revealed what had happened to the real people that this film is based on, I was hooked. But the more I looked into this film, the more I got sucked in, the more deranged and disturbed I became until I sat down and watched this film. My main reaction at the end was that I was sick and disgusted by what I saw. I guess it was due to me seeing this film at a young age and not mentally ready to deal with this film's subject matter. Later on when I rewatched this film, I saw it as a masterpiece in a very twisted sense of the word.
When I call this film a masterpiece, what I mean is the audacity to create a film that shows explicit scenes of teenage sex, rape, drug usage, and complete chaos without sugar coating anything. What I also mean is the performance of the cast as they tackle this film. Watching what they had to do, I would not doubt it that they were all disturbed with what they had to do. These kids had balls and while a few of them did not act well, they still all gave this film a power that has yet to be matched in my opinion (in terms of young actors).
But one kid that I feel the need to talk about is Nick Stahl as the titular 'Bully': Bobby. As I have mentioned in other reviews I have written for this site, my second favorite film of all time is A Clockwork Orange. When I saw Nick Stahl's performance in this film, I was beyond reminded of Malcolm McDowell's performance as Alex DeLarge in A Clockwork Orange. Both characters are young, they both obsess over torturing people and raping others just for fun, and they are both the most sadistic bastards you can imagine. But what makes DeLarge likable in a sick sense is how he changes throughout Clockwork. With Bobby, you can't. He is just hateful and despicable, and I love hating him in this film. But with acting, Stahl does an excellent job with this character, but I would of personally liked it if we were able to see more sides to his character.
That is my main complaint with this film: the characters represent only one emotion: either scared, pissed, horny, or evil. I would of loved it if I could of seen more shades to the characters and be able to grow into them all. But, Clark had a story to tell and went with that route for some reason and as such, I will just accept it.
Larry Clark is the type of director that I admire. This and his previous film Kids (a film that is true horror) shows the true underside of teenagers this day and age. His film also have that feel of being eternal due to how real these films get as they age. Back when they were released, it looked kind of true, but now these films are reality. With him basing all of his films on people he knows and/or news reports, what you see in his films is as extreme as they get. With Bully, this might be his most tamed film, and that means nothing.
By no means is Bully a film for children. If anything, Bully is a film that should be shown to high school students and anyone older. With the rising problem with bullying among teenagers, this film is a wake up call to people, telling them that this is real and this does actually happen. But as a regular film, prepare to be disturbed. A wonderful portrait.