Bully (Cert 18)

by JASON SOLOMONS, Mail on Sunday

Larry Clark has earned the right to be labelled notorious. His 1995 directing debut was Kids, one of the most controversial films of its decade and one which - contrary to how they used to say children should be - was heard rather than seen.

His latest, Bully, suffered similar treatment in America, where it was judged unclassifiable and therefore managed to outrage a number of people disproportionate to those who actually saw it.

But these are liberal times in Britain's cinemas and for those with any curiosity about cinema and the power of art, Clark represents a pugnacious artist of considerable interest.

Bully continues his established aesthetic, fetishising young bodies and rough sex; finding a beauty in teenage skin, be it smooth and muscled or scarred, bruised and flabby.

Clark used to be a photographer and his cinema is best understood in that context - many shots here could adorn the Saatchi Gallery, where no doubt they would also ruffle some feathers.

Based on a true event, Bully examines the languid lives of middle-class white America, in particular a group of Florida friends who murder a guy who's a bit of a bully and leave him in a swamp for the alligators.

Such is Clark's dispassionate telling of the story - and such is the bored, doped-up, desensitised vacuity behind the eyes of these kids - that it comes over as a cross between Stand By Me and a reconstruction of the Bulger case.

This oscillating tone is intriguing, pushing the film along until we finally get some sort of moral judgment from the director.

Starring the excellent Brad Renfro and Nick Stahl (poor Stahl - you can currently watch him being murdered in In The Bedroom, too), Bully is sloppily scripted in places but full of life in other areas, notably its spurts of improvised dialogue and the ceaselessly prying and probing camera.

No comments have so far been submitted. Why not be the first to send us your thoughts, or debate this issue live on our message boards.

We are no longer accepting comments on this article.

Who is this week's top commenter? Find out now