Full of authentic environments and faces, Larry Clark’s Bully is suitably grimy and lived in. Clearly made by the same man who directed Kids, it retains that film’s edginess and aggressive young cast. Clark is obviously obsessed by this younger generation and fetishises the aimlessness, the boredom and the technology they are defined by.
The central story, based on a true incident, is very disturbing and this isn’t lost on the filmmakers. Seeing a group of kids offhandedly decide to murder one of their own and clumsily see it through to the end hits hard. It’s been done before (River’s Edge) and since (Mean Creek) but never quite this black and unrelenting. The performances from a mixture of established young actors and inexperienced newcomers are all pretty great and they all blend in completely to this world. It is an energetic and youthful film but one that is still full of danger and unease. The raw sexuality, drug-use and violence is tough but to soften it would be a mistake.
All that said, there is something lurid and crude about Clark’s eye that makes some scenes feel a bit leering. It all goes tad Terry Richardson at times but that unease actually enhances a lot of the film’s moments. It’s got a great, big budget soundtrack which offsets the rough aesthetic nicely and some of the most effective scenes are when you’re just watching a bunch of 20 somethings exist in the tableu that is 2001. I kept thinking about Sofia Coppola’s The Bling Ring in a lot of scenes. The later film might be based on a lighter crime but the scrutiny is just as on-point and bracing.