Bully is the chilling true story of the murder of Bobby Kent by a group of high school friends from Florida following years of relentless psychological, physical and sexual abuse. Adapted from the book Bully: A True Story of High School Revenge by Jim Schutze, Larry Clark (Kids, Ken Park) takes the directing reigns and creates his usual gritty, dark world full of hopelessness and young wasted lives. The result is hard to stomach and incredibly raw and is a story that will stay with you for a long while.
The world of Bobby Kent involves the routine abuse of everyone around him, and in particular his best friend and punching bag Marty Puccio. Having been friends for their entire lives Marty feels helpless to stand up to Bobby until one day the two of them meet Lisa and Ali and Marty falls in love.
Lisa and Ali become Bobby’s new targets being subjected to sexual and psychological abuse whenever the opportunity arises. Bobby himself struggles with an overbearing father and his latent homosexuality which, unlike every other act in the film, although not explicitly shown is implied to extend to the sexual abuse of Marty.
After Bobby rapes Ali and Lisa sees what he does to Marty she begins to persuade Marty to stand up to Bobby and hatches a plot to kill him. With the help of some of their stoner friends and a local ‘hit man’ they lure Bobby to a remote location, kill him and dump his body in the swamp. Inevitably the lack of planning, the brazen way in which they all spread word of what they have done and the inward pressure they all feel about what has happened lead to a quick round up by the police and the convictions of everyone involved.
The story of Bully is shocking in itself and this adaptation is truly one of the darkest films ever made. Larry Clark does a stellar job of showing off Bobby’s nature such that on the one hand you wish that someone kill him but on the other you find yourself feeling sorry for him, particularly when he is set upon by his friends. The internal conflicts of the characters during the scene show how detached they all are from reality and the total lack of understanding of the consequences of their actions and the gravity of what they are undertaking.
Perfectly played throughout by the entire cast it is impossible not to become fully invested in their hopeless world with Nick Stahl and Brad Renfro particularly strong in the lead roles. If you can stomach the harshness of it, Bully is as powerful as they come.