Bully

Killer Kidz
★★★
☆☆☆
Released: 
2001
Director: 
Larry Clark
Starring: 
Brad Renfro, Bijou Phillips, Rachel Miner, Nich Stahl, Michael Pitt
The Setup: 
Bunch of Florida teens band together to kill one of their group.
Discussion: 

I just cannot stand the films of Larry Clark. Thats what I had to face after it took me over two months to get through this movie, which normally is exactly the kind of thing that is right up my alley. I love movies about how today's youth are amoral little drugged-up wastrels with no future, and I love crime movies, and I love crime movies where the criminals are drugged-up wastrels with no future. But this, God, I just couldn't stand it. I could only bear to watch it for about 20 minutes at a time before I would want to turn it off, and then I would be irritated afterward. Which reminds me that I had the same experience watching Clark's Kids, which finally brought me to the point where I said "You know what, there's no reason I need to watch this," and returned it unfinished.

So Brad Renfro as Marty and Nick Stahl as Bobby work at the deli counter of a supermarket. The they meet these two young women, one of which is Rachel Miner as Lisa. We can see that Bobby casually bullies Marty, calling him names, calling him stupid, and sometimes hitting him for no reason. And yet they are best friends. We can only ever wonder why this happens. At night they go to a gay club where they dance in front of men, and it is implied that they arrange phone sex or perhaps other exchanges for money. Soon both boys are having sex with both the girls they met, in the car, and at one point Marty is having sex with Lisa when Bobby comes in to her and says "I'm next."

We are seeing a fair amount of the kids having sex, which struck me as quite gross, and super distasteful, all those nasty youthful fluids commingling. I was sitting there like "Please use condoms, please use condoms," and boom, before you know it, Lisa is pregnant. Great. Just what the world needs. Meanwhile, Bobby has made a video of some guy sucking a dildo, and has the idea he is going to sell it as virtual porn. We soon find out to our surprise that Bobby's dad adores his son and thinks Marty is the problem. We also see a bit of weirdness in Bobby's home as his dad comes in to have a talk with him while Bobby is nude. And soon Bobby is with one of Lisa's friends, where he makes her watch gay porn as he rapes and hits her. This guy is not making a lot of friends. Soon Lisa is asking Marty why he puts up with it, and Marty responds "We could kill him," and Lisa responds "That's what I was thinking."

SPOILERS > > >
Now begins a long planning period, in which they make their plan known to everyone and recruit a lot of people who have nothing to do with their social circle, including Michael Pitt, a pudgy fellow whom they consider to be some sort of badass gangster, and another guy who claims to be schooled in murder and can get them various weapons. The background continues to be filled in, painting a picture of these aimless teens who do nothing but sit around, doing drugs, watching videos and screwing, and their parents, all uniformly clueless and powerless. They all keep talking and planning, and it starts to become apparent that the murder is just kind of a game to them.

Eventually they take Bobby out and kill him. Marty leaves the sheath of his knife at the scene, and they have to go back and get it. They all meet on the beach to work out alibis, the reality starting to sink in on them, and each inventing various reasons why they aren't guilty. One stabbed him, sure, but didn't KILL him. Some of the girls say they were present, sure, but didn't KILL him.

In the days that follow, they all start blabbing. One of the girls asks her mom if you can report a murder without giving your name, but insists she's just asking out of curiosity. Some of the boys boast about it to other boys. Lisa goes over to ask an unrelated friend for a ride out to where they dumped the body, so she can make sure it won't be found. Eventually all the kids are rounded up and sent to trial. The movie ends with little titles telling us the sentence each one got.
< < < SPOILERS END

In retrospect, now that I'm not watching it anymore, it seems pretty good. It successfully paints this portrait of aimless youth, surrounded by violent and sexual media, downing tons of drugs and engaging in reckless sex, all without any parental oversight or mature influences to help them make sense of any of it. But there's something so in-your-face about Clark's style, it is so self-consciously trying to be hard-hitting and working overtime to ensure that you understand every single point as it's being made, that it can be just generally annoying to watch. As I said, I could only take it in 20-minute increments over the course of two months, and it irritated me every time. It just doesn't leave the viewer much space to form his or her own impressions, or experience and process the story on your own, because it is so insistently shoving everything in your face, and I found that quite alienating. Surely not everyone does.

That said, the performances are quite good, and ultimately it does fill in these characters and let you see where they're coming from. Renfro does seem like a genuinely sensitive dim bulb, easily swayed by anyone around him with an idea, whether it be Bobby or Lisa. Rachel Miner as Lisa maintains a manic, vacant look in her eye that makes her seem quite believably crazy. And everyone else convincingly casts their characters as aimless kids, all trying to put on the trappings of being badass, careless adults, and only seeming like flailing kids.

So, you know, it's good! It's one of those good things I'm super glad I never have to sit through again. Can't I just read an article about the case?

Should you watch it: 

I suppose.