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Film review: Bully

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There may not be a more reprehensible filmmaker working in the movie industry these days than Larry Clark.

Regardless of how you felt about his controversial 1995 debut, "Kids," there was something unappetizing, even skin-crawling, about the voyeuristic way in which Clark told his story.

From there, his skills have continued to erode, culminating with "Bully," one of the most lecherous excuses for a film ever made.

The film is more akin to porn than it is to narrative storytelling.

While the film may be based on a true story — OK, Jim Schutze's highly fictionalized version of the events — it's populated with some of the most unlikable teen characters ever. (As a sociological study, it might be interesting, but the attempts to humanize the characters here are half-hearted at best.)

The title misfit character is Florida teen Bobby Kent (Nick Stahl, from "Disturbing Behavior"). Having been browbeaten (and possibly worse) by his father, he takes out his frustrations on others, including his supposed best friend, Marty Puccio (Brad Renfro).

Bobby's not just verbally and physically abusing Marty, though. He's also pimping him out at local gay clubs.

Eventually, Marty decides to do something about it. Together with his new girlfriend Lisa (Rachel Miner, the former Mrs. Macaulay Culkin), he enlists a group of teens (friends and others victimized by Bobby) to kill his former friend.

The plan is simple: Lure Bobby to an isolated spot, using Lisa's friend Ali (musician-turned-actress Bijou Phillips) as the bait. Nearby they'll lie in wait, prepared to mete out vengeance.

When you think about how horrifying their actions are, the film's ending should be chilling. But in Clark's inept hands, it comes off as disgusting or laughably bad, depending on your viewpoint.

It's impossible to care about what happens to these repugnant characters.

As Marty, Renfro seems indifferent rather than sullen, while Phillips gets progressively louder and whinier in each succeeding scene.

Of the bunch, the only one who seems to be making an effort is Stahl, but he's not physically imposing enough for his character to be believable.

"Bully" is not rated but would probably receive an NC-17 for frequent, excessive use of strong profanity, rampant, full female and male nudity, graphic violence (including a bludgeoning, stabbings and throat-slitting), graphic simulated sex (both straight and gay), graphic gore, simulated drug use (LSD and marijuana), a scene depicting rape and use of both crude sexual slang terms and racial epithets. Running time: 112 minutes.


E-MAIL: jeff@desnews.com