Based on Jim Schutze's account of a real-life murder case, Bully charts the events leading up to the slaughter of odious Bobby Kent (Nick Stahl), and then hangs around for the inevitable trial and retribution. As the story unfolds, we learn that Bobby has been verbally and physically abusing 'best friend' Marty (Brad Renfro) since childhood, but things really come to a head when he rapes Marty's new girlfriend, Lisa (Rachel Miner). Soon, the young couple and their slacker circle of friends decide to mete out the ultimate form of punishment, aided and abetted by a teenage hitman (Leo Fitzpatrick).
While it's true that Bully shares certain similarities with Larry Clark's controversial Kids, it also represents a few steps forward in terms of content and characterisation. Brad Renfro is excellent as the tortured Marty, and the rest of the gang - particularly Bijou Phillips and Michael Pitt - follow Clark's brief, combining humour with hardball to sometimes devastating effect. Credit to Clark for sculpting a motley crew of largely dislikeable losers who inspire contempt and, ultimately, sympathy for their actions - maybe this film should have been titled Parents? Whatever, Bully really does deserve wider recognition than I suspect will be the case, and isn't it about time Clark's so-called voyeuristic tendancies are put into proper perspective? The bottom line is those lingering close-ups of female flesh are shot from the point-of-view of the male characters, and, dare I say it, the majority of their audience.