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Wednesday, July 8, 2015

ALL AMERICAN BULLY -- DVD Review by Porfle

Not quite the "school shooting" type of revenge flick I was expecting nor an anti-bullying After School Special, ALL AMERICAN BULLY, aka "The Innocent" (2011), is mostly a good old-fashioned lowbrow teen thriller that plays like something you might've rented on VHS back in the 80s.

We first meet a trio of nerds who hang around in a basement gazing at their laptops or playing videogames.  Two of them, Devon (Alexander Fraser) and Becky (Alicia Rose), are movie nerds, which means that they're actually fairly attractive unlike actual nerds.  Garrett (Darren Hicks), on the other hand, looks and acts like a real nerd, adding to the film's authenticity. 

Thanks to a pleasantly rural smalltown setting, these kids walk a lot to get where they're going, which brings them into contact with the town bully, Johnny (Daren Ackerman) when he and a similarly hostile companion pull up in Johnny's truck and start terrorizing them.  As so often happens in real life, Becky mouths off at Johnny while Devon must suffer the consequences. 

The bullies steal a precious gaming manual that Devon has saved all year for, bitch-slapping him a few times as they go, which made me begin to feel predictably infuriated and already yearning for them to die or at least horribly suffer before this movie's over with.  It's already apparent that things are going to escalate drastically at some point.

Devon gets even more punishment when he invades the sanctity of Johnny's forest hangout where he and his friends do drugs and shoot guns, using pages from Devon's book as targets.  Devon not only throws a hissy fit for this outrage but also calls Johnny's slutty girlfriend a "whore", a description Johnny deems a bit too accurate, and a round-robin beating ensues which she tapes so it can be posted online. 

Just so we don't start thinking, "Hmm...Devon should report these incidents to an adult", we discover that his wheelchair-bound father Mike (Bob Olin) is a terminally confused single dad with an uncommunicative nerd for a son, and that Devon's teachers are pretty ineffectual as well.  The school principal, nicely played by one of slasher cinema's all-time leading final girls (FRIDAY THE 13TH's Adrienne King), is only a hop, skip, and jump from the booby hatch herself. 

Later in the story we're shocked to find that Devon and Johnny used to be best friends, and that Devon has something he can post online to get back at his tormentor big time.  But this episode proves that fighting fire with fire isn't always a good idea, leading to some of that "escalation" I mentioned earlier.  In short, Johnny--whom we discover is much more "troubled" than we realized--goes full-tilt coo-coo. 

This is where ALL AMERICAN BULLY either goes off the rails or really gets good, depending on how you perceive the last fifteen minutes or so.  Without giving much away, the finale takes place in the woods at night and involves a gun, a video camera, drugs, blood, rape, death, and a general air of unpleasantness.  Some of the plot turns as well as the acting are all over the place, but in a good way, and it's all entertainingly over-the-top.

Writer-director Jason Hawkins handles his low budget well and there are some nice visual touches here and there as well as an ear-pleasing musical score.  The acting by the leads may not always be polished, but they put a lot into it.  Alexander Fraser as Devon reminds me of Scott Jacoby of BAD RONALD fame and could play the title role if they ever did a remake.

The DVD from Wild-Eye Releasing is in widescreen with Dolby 2.0 sound.  No subtitles.  As a bonus there is over an hour's worth of cast interviews including 13 minutes with Adrienne King. 

Although I avoided bullying by being not just a nerd but a class clown as well, I could identify with the beleaguered protagonists in this story.  Now that I'm an adult, I can also sympathize with the grown-ups in the story who have scant clue as to how to handle any of this.  As a movie fan, I was pleased that ALL AMERICAN BULLY didn't always go the route I expected and, though messy and maybe a little goofy at times, the ending was anything but boring. 

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