Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

There hasn't been anything like this since Fun and River's Edge. Even director Larry Clark's debut, Kids, which caused such a storm in 1995, ambles through disaffection by comparison.

Based on a seemingly motiveless murder in Florida, the scriptwriters (Zachary Long and Roger Pullis) brilliantly recreate an atmosphere of moral anarchy amongst a loosely-knit group of middle-class teenagers.

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Culturally void, their influences come from video games, pornography, fast food, sex, drugs and Emanem. Bobby (Nick Stahl), the bully of the title, is more focused and intelligent than the rest. His best pal Marty (Brad Renfro), a surfer and high school dropout, acts as his stooge.

Bobby has a father who encourages him to go into business, while the other parents, particularly the mothers, offer no criticism or direction, but simply work to make their kids' lives easy.

Two things happen that spark the crime. Marty gets a girl (Rachel Miner), whose friend (Bijou Phillips) is raped by Bobby. She's into everything and everyone, which makes the incident both unnecessary and surprising. Obviously, Bobby enjoys inflicting pain.

Clark's documentary style is non-judgmental. The killing has a rough-cut clueless energy about it, as if noone knows what they are doing, or why. "The whole thing was totally totally extreme," one of them admits afterwards, as if describing a horror movie.

The performances are uninhibited and utterly believable. Renfro's depiction of a 17-year-old boy, who cannot articulate his emotions and comes from a strict Catholic family, where "the worst thing you could do was make your mother cry," is chillingly truthful.

In a post-feminist, post-religious, post-rock-and-roll world, reality is virtual.

Reviewed on: 27 Feb 2002
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The true story of a motiveless murder amongst middle-class teenagers in Florida.
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Director: Larry Clark

Writer: Zachary Long, Roger Pullis, based on the book by Jim Schutze

Starring: Brad Renfro, Bijou Phillips, Rachel Miner, Nick Stahl, Michael Pitt, Leo Fitzpatrick, Kelli Garner, Daniel Franzese, Nathalie Paulding

Year: 2001

Runtime: 111 minutes

BBFC: 18 - Age Restricted

Country: France/US


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