ⓘ Bully (2001 film)
Bully is a 2001 American crime film directed by Larry Clark, and starring Brad Renfro, Bijou Phillips, Rachel Miner, Michael Pitt, Leo Fitzpatrick, Daniel Franzese, Kelli Garner, and Nick Stahl. Its plot follows a group of teenagers in South Florida who enact a murder plot against their mutual friend who has emotionally, physically, and sexually abused them for years.
The film is based on the 1993 murder of Bobby Kent, and its screenplay was adapted by David McKenna under the pseudonym Zachary Long and Roger Pullis from the book Bully: A True Story of High School Revenge by Jim Schutze. Filming took place in southern Florida in the summer of 2000.
Bully was given a limited release in the United States on July 13, 2001, and met with mixed critical responses, though many critics noted the films disturbing and straightforward handling of youth crime and murder.
South Florida high school dropouts Ali Willis and Lisa Connelly befriend Bobby Kent and Marty Puccio, employees at a local deli. The four all go out on a double date. While in a parked car, Ali performs oral sex on Bobby, while Lisa and Marty have sex in the back seat. Lisa later learns she is pregnant, but is afraid that the child is Bobbys instead of Martys, since Bobby raped her after beating Marty unconscious.
Bobby emotionally and physically abuses Marty, who puts up with his violent tendencies. On one occasion, Bobby rapes Ali while trying to force her to watch gay male pornography with him. Lisa later tells Marty that everyone suspects Bobby is attracted to him. Marty reveals to Lisa that the abuse has been going on since they were boys, starting with Marty taking drugs at an early age, which Marty thinks that Bobby has been using to take advantage of him. Marty and Bobby later go to a gay bar, where Marty is told to strip down to his underwear and dance for money, while Bobby takes pleasure in his humiliation.
Lisa eventually proposes that the group murder Bobby. Ali recruits her new boyfriend, the pot-smoking and acid-dropping Donny, and her troubled friend, Heather Swallers, who has recently been released from rehab; Lisa recruits her cousin, the shy and nerdy Derek Dzvirko. They initially plan to kill Bobby with a gun stolen from Lisas mother. Ali and Lisa take Bobby to the Everglades, with the plan that Lisa will shoot him while he has sex with Ali, but Lisa finds herself unable to do it. Realizing they need help, the group hire a supposed "hitman", Derek Kaufman, who is in actuality a tough-talking young man several years older than them.
With Kaufmans help, they orchestrate a new plan: They all drive to a remote canal, where Ali again lures Bobby with sex. Heather haphazardly initiates a signal to begin the murder, and Donny stabs Bobby in the back of the neck. Horrified by the violence, Ali, Heather, and Derek run back to Alis car. Bobby begs for mercy, but Marty stabs him in the stomach, disemboweling him, before slitting his throat. Derek Kaufman proceeds to bludgeon Bobby with a baseball bat. Lisa witnesses it all, never turning away. They dump Bobby, still clinging to life, in the swamp, leaving him to drown, and presume alligators will consume his corpse.
Marty later realizes that he left the sheath to his diving knife at the canal. They go to retrieve the sheath, and check on the corpse, which is now being eaten by crabs. Lisa, Derek, Ali, and Heather do not believe they did anything wrong, since they did not directly participate in Bobbys actual death. Lisa decides to dispose of the knife, which is the only evidence linking them to the crime.
Unable to maintain the secret, Derek and Lisa reveal to their other friends what theyve done, while Ali phones in an anonymous tip to the media, alerting them to Bobbys death. Lisa calls Derek and speaks to his younger brother, who says that Derek has already been arrested for the murder. Eventually, all the teenagers turn themselves in, with the exception of Marty, who is subsequently arrested. Some time later, the group appear in court, wearing prison jumpsuits, with Lisa visibly pregnant by this time. Marty and Donny begin to argue, leading the others to join in as they each respectively deny their culpability in front of an onlooking courtroom.
Title cards reveal their convictions, with Derek Kaufman, Donny, and Lisa receiving life sentences, Ali receiving 40 years, Derek Dzvirko receiving 11, Heather receiving seven, and Marty being sentenced to death.
2.1. Production Basis
The film is based on the July 15, 1993 murder of Bobby Kent at a remote area in Weston, Florida, south of Alligator Alley. Four of the convicted teens, known as the Broward County Seven, were released after serving brief prison terms. Today, only three are still serving prison sentences. The book, Bully: A True Story of High School Revenge by Jim Schutze was released in 1998. The film includes two title cards that reveal how several of the perpetrators appealed their sentences and the results of those actions.
The actual co-perpetrators of the murder were convicted and sentenced as follows:
- Heather June Swallers Second-degree murder and conspiracy to commit first-degree murder. Was sentenced to seven years imprisonment on May 12, 1995; she received a lighter sentence than the others because, unlike Derek Dzvirko, she did not attempt to lie on the witness stand. Released February 14, 1998.
- Martin Joseph "Marty" Puccio, Jr. First-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder. Sentenced to death by electrocution on July 27, 1995; commuted to life in prison without the possibility of parole for 25 years on November 20, 1997. Currently incarcerated at the Desoto Annex in Arcadia, Florida.
- Derek Leon Kaufman First-degree murder and conspiracy to commit first-degree murder. Sentenced to life plus 30 years imprisonment on June 12, 1995. On November 15, 1994, Kaufman received a 30-month sentence for trafficking in stolen property, stemming from a February 1993 case. As of August 2010, he was incarcerated at the Mayo Correctional Institution in Mayo, Florida.
- Donald Daniel "Donny" Semenec, Jr. Second-degree murder. Sentenced to life in prison on May 17, 1995. Two weeks after his conviction in the murder of Bobby Kent, Donny received another 14-month sentence for bringing drugs into jail and cocaine possession stemming from a 1994 case. Currently incarcerated at the Lake Correctional Institution in Clermont, Florida.
- Lisa Marie Connelly Second-degree murder and conspiracy to commit aggravated battery with a deadly weapon. Sentenced to life plus five years imprisonment on July 21, 1995; reduced on appeal to 22 years. Released on February 3, 2004. Lisa delivered her and Puccios daughter in the Broward County Jail during her incarceration.
- Alice Jean "Ali" Willis aka Alice Jean Chapman, Alice Jean Slay Second-degree murder and conspiracy to commit second-degree murder. Sentenced to 40 years imprisonment on May 19, 1995; reduced on appeal to 17 years for the murder charge and 15 years for the conspiracy charge. Released on Supervised Probation September 16, 2001 the movie notes she will be under those probationary terms for 40 years. Currently residing in Belpre, Ohio. Probation set to terminate September 15, 2041.
- Derek George Dzvirko Second-degree murder and conspiracy to commit first-degree murder. He was originally sentenced to seven years imprisonment on May 12, 1995 but received four extra years for trying to lie on the witness stand. Released October 1, 1999.
3. Critical reception
Bully received mixed reviews from critics and has a "Rotten" rating of 54% on Rotten Tomatoes based on 91 reviews with an average score of 5.7 out of 10. The critical consensus states "With its lingering shots of naked teenage bodies, Bully feels more sordidly exploitative than realistic." The film holds a score of 45 out of 100 on Metacritic, based on 26 critics indicating Mixed or average reviews.
Roger Ebert was one of the films notable admirers and gave the film four out of four stars and stated in his review "Larry Clarks Bully calls the bluff of movies that pretend to be about murder but are really about entertainment. His film has all the sadness and shabbiness, all the mess and cruelty and thoughtless stupidity of the real thing.If the director doesnt have a strong personal feeling about material like this, he shouldnt be making movies about it.Clark is not some objectified, outside adult observer making an after-school special, but an artist who has made a leap into this teenage mindscape.I believe Bully is a masterpiece on its own terms, a frightening indictment of a society that offers absolutely nothing to some of its children - and an indictment of the children, who lack the imagination and courage to try to escape. Bobby and his killers deserve one another."
- Tricky: "Excess"
- Shawty: "Who Ya Callin Country"
- Bizzy Bone: "Jesus"
- Rinka: "Boots Sex Dread"
- Tha Dogg Pound: "We About to Get Fuccd Up"
- Dr. Dre feat. Eminem: "Forgot About Dre"
- Sen Dog and DJ FM: "Latin Thug"
- Zoe Poledouris: "Unloved: The Decision"
- JT Money feat. Sole: "Who Dat"
- Cypress Hill: "When the Shit Goes Down"
- Thurston Moore: "Bully Murder Scene"
- FOG: "By This Axe We Rule" taken from "Through The Eyes of Night." WWII MUSIC under license from Dark Horizon Records
- Tricky: "Bury the Evidence"
- Zoe Poledouris and Jerome Dillon: "Window: Heathers Story"
- Zoe Poledouris and Jerome Dillon: "Window: Gun One"
- Tha Dogg Pound: "Work Dat Pussy"
- Fatboy Slim: "Song for Shelter Talking Bout My Baby"
- Atomic Babies: "Cetch Da Monkey"
- Ol Dirty Bastard: "Last Call"
- Scott Grusin and John Caruso: "Bullys Beauties"
- Tha Dogg Pound: "Coastin"
- Quark: "Je Tai Oublie"
- Zoe Poledouris and Jerome Dillon: "Window: Lisa Wakes"
- Zoe Poledouris and Jerome Dillon: "Window: Its Bobby"
- Cage: "Suicidal Failure"
- Bomber: "Joyride"
- Smut Peddlers feat. R.A. The Rugged Man: "Bottom Feeders"
- Ghetto Inmates: "Thug Ass Bitch"