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When Sam Merric becomes tired of being bullied by school bully George, he employs the help of his older brother Rocky and best friend Marty to teach George a lesson. As the group head out to the river to go rafting, they plan to play a cruel prank on George that will teach him the error of his ways. However, when it becomes clear that George has frustrations that stem from his learning disabilities, they rethink the plan. But as George continues to goad the kids, events take a turn for the worse and he finds himself in terrible danger.
The group find themselves facing various dilemma's during the film. Sam wants his tormentor to stop, but he doesn't want to hurt George because his girlfriend Millie has begged him not to. Rocky wants to protect his younger brother but when he realises how angry at the world Marty is he knows that this could just go too far. In the end, each of the characters have to face up to the consequences of their own actions.
Its Scott Mechlowicz who has the meatiest role. Scarred by his abusive father's suicide, and abused by his older brother, his character is one full of fury and rage. Mechlowicz is superb playing the angry teen full of angst and bitterness. Josh Peck as George is a little wooden, he seems a bit out of his depth as the bully who keeps venting his frustrations on the younger and smaller kids in his school. Rory Culkin is effective, but has little to do considering its he that ties all of the other character's together. Carly Shroeder is brilliant though, worldlywise beyond her years, and the obvious conscience of the group.
Jacob Aaron Estes weaves a simple, yet complicated story of a group of youngsters being torn between doing the right thing but not being responsible enough to make that choice. He does a great job of creating sympathy's that shift between each of the characters. Whilst you at once sympathise with George, the next moment you are willing them to extract the cruel revenge that they seem so keen to give to him.
The film is well enough acted by most of the lead actors, and the direction is spot on. But at the end of it all, the film seems a tad empty, and nobody seems to have learned anything from the experience.
Released in 2004, the film runs for 89 minutes, and is probably the only thing worth a watch on the DVD. Its available for £6.77 on amazon, although there is an option to buy a used copy for as little as £2.
note: also appears in part on The Student Room
If a kid bullies another kid, and then a teacher asks him why he did it, so often will he respond with "I don't know". Mean Creek explores how cruelty is an extremely casual act in many youths, and whilst it doesn't really probe why (although offers a few subtle hints), it effectively places us in the shoes of a parent figure, unknowing why these things happen, and simply trying to control the damage afterwards. Mean Creek is a supremely well crafted drama that features a superb cast of yougsters, and all in all is a scintilating meditation on morality.
The film begins with Sam (Rory Culkin), a small, scrawny, shy young boy, who admits to his brother Rocky (Trevor Morgan) that he's being bullied at school by a large dyslexic boy named George (Josh Peck). Thus, they, along with Clyde (Ryan Kelley), a well meaning and pleasant boy, Marty (Scott Mechlowicz), a young man who acts out because he has two gay parents, and Millie (Carly Schroeder), Sam's love interest, invite George out to the creek to go fishing, but in fact it is a daring ploy to get their own back by pushing him in the creek and humiliating him. However, things go terribly wrong, and the kids are left with a body in the creek that they pushed in there.
This is a supremely mature film that really has a voice for its characters, and delivers its plot in a mesmerising, almost noirish fashion that is by all turns tragic and insightful. It offers no easy answers because there are none - simply that children are temperamental as they attempt the awkward transition into adulthood.
Mean Creek is a disquieting morality tale, which considers the nature of bullying with eloquence and intelligence. However, what renders it distinct from similar films is the depth of its characters. Wonderfully shot and scored, the film also displays a promising array of young talent at their best.
George Tooney (Josh Peck) is the overweight school bully, he picks on younger boy Sam (Rory Culkin) who can't defend himself against the coward. When Sam gets smacked around the head by George one day, Sam's older brother Rocky (Trevor Morgan) notices bruising on his face and Sam admits to Rocky that George is bullying him.
After confiding in his friend Marty (Scott Mechlowicz) about his little brother's bullying, Marty and Rocky hatch a plan to pay George back for what he's done. They decide that they'll invite him out on a trip down the river with them along with Sam, their friend Clyde and Millie, the girl that Sam likes. While heading down the river they'll strip George before throwing him in the river, leaving him to run home naked. Sounds like a good plan eh? Well when George finds out about the plan he tells Marty and friends exactly what he thinks of them leading to a terrible accident...
Mean Creek, not to be confused with Wolf Creek is one of those underrated dramas that manages to slip under the radar because it isn't a big budget movie with an A-List cast but it doesn't mean that this isn't an extremely powerful piece of film making that will have you pondering way after it's over.
The only recognisable member of the cast for me was Rory Culkin, Macaulay Culkin's younger brother who is uncannily similar to his brother. The cast is excellent though and for a bunch of unknowns and for such young actors and actresses it's a big achievement. The character that stood out for me the most was the character of Marty. He's had deep personal trauma and when George brings that into the conversation, accidentally at first it sends him over the edge. The rest of the group back out of the plan as soon as they get to the river but Marty is adamant that they should still do it. His acting was probably the strongest of the bunch as he's the one that takes control of the group and tells them exactly what to do when things go horribly wrong.
Rory Culkin was very good too, he would have been about 14 when this film came out and he did a really good job along with the other young actress. It must have been an extremely challenging role for two such young people being in such a hard hitting film but they played their parts brilliantly.
Josh Peck who plays the school bully also did very well, he had another tough role playing such a diverse character, I also slightly recognised him from a kids show although I can't remember what it is. Even though he's only in around half of the film for reasons which will become apparent if you watch or have watched this but his performance leaves a lasting impression and is probably the most relatable. Everyone will know someone who was the school bully who although you hate them a part of you feels sorry for them because they were probably picked on as a child which made them turn out that way. This is exactly what Josh Peck's character is and although you think he may deserve a bit of a reality check you also start to see another side of him as the trip progresses which enables you to sympathise with him on some level.
The story is extremely thought provoking and harrowing. It's something that any bully victim would have fantasised about doing and I can't blame them. This story of course goes terribly wrong and leaves the kids with a moral dilemma about what's right and what's wrong. For such a tough subject I think it was handled very well as the kids become torn on what to do. It really makes you think about what you would do in that situation, of course everybody thinks that they would do the right thing but if in the real situation panic starts to set in and your mind works differently that it would under normal circumstances.
For such a low budget film I think this was really well made, you can tell straight away that the director didn't have millions of dollars to work with as it's set in a typical run-down American town. Some of the film was shot on a handheld camera that George has with him throughout the film and captures most of the action. Don't go thinking that this is another Cloverfield disaster though because the majority of the film is shot with a normal camera but it's a nice touch using the handheld to shoot things and it's obvious that the camera will come into play later on in the movie.
I was a little disappointed by the ending as it didn't completely wrap things up, I think it was the right ending for the subject matter however I would have liked it to have gone into a bit more detail about what happened to each individual character because you definitely feel for them all in different ways. It does however leave the ending to the viewers imagination which can sometimes work in it's favour.
There are some very compelling parts of the film but a lot of it does drag, it doesn't last too long but I think it can be a bit too slow at times and it would have been better if this was condensed a bit.
I would highly recommend this to any fan of drama films, this is very thought provoking and involves moral dilemmas which will keep you thinking about them way after the film ends. If you do watch this don't go expecting anything amazing but for a low budget film with mainly unknown actors then this is a real diamond in the rough.
The DVD is unfortunately very overpriced, it's available from play.com for £11.99.
Special features include:
Audio commentary from director Jacob Aaron Estes, cinematographer Sharon Meir, editor Madeleine Gavin and actors Josh Peck, Trevor Morgan, Ryan Kelley & Carly Schroeder
Original theatrical trailer
My sister rented this film out because she really wanted to watch it and me and my boyfriend only planned to watch five minutes of it and then go out but instead we sat down and watched the whole film because it grips you so tight and does not let go. As you can see I have only given it four stars but I think it is one of the better films I have seen that hasnt had major publicity behind it.
The film begins with introducing you to Sam who does not seem to be the most popular kid in the school he is at. You are then introduced to George, quite a chubby kid who uses his aggression on other people and you find out that George has been bullying Sam and a whole host of other people. Sams friend Millie sticks buy him and tries to help him get over his hatred for George.
The film is shot in what seems like a nice neighbourhood and there is not much colour seen. You immediately feel like there is a huge mystery surrounding everybody and that each character has their own secrets.
Sams brother Rocky and his friends Clyde and Marty are quite the trouble makers and as soon as they find out about Sam being bullied they are eager to help. Rocky loves his younger brother and does the big brotherly thing of hatching up a plan to get their own back on George.
On Georges birthday Sam pretends to befriend George and they all offer to take him on a boat ride down the creek with some ulterior motives. They have a good time while they are out with George not realising that they do not like him at all and he genuinely believes that they are befriending him and he seems quite pleased at the idea.
Sam starts to feel bad about their plan and he begins to think that George may not be as bad as he first thought.
Things to know:
Runtime 90 minutes.
Sam Rory Culkin.
Rocky Trevor Morgan.
George Josh Peck.
Millie Carly Schroeder.
Clyde Ryan Kelley.
Marty Scott Mechlowicz.
Well what can I say about this film apart from it is great and it surpassed my expectations by miles. For a low budget movie and one with not many known actors it does surprisingly well and I am surprised that it didnt get more publicity when it was at the cinema as I didnt even hear about it.
The story for one of this film is extremely interesting and to be honest you can imagine it happening in real life. I am sure that most people who have been bullied can identify with Sam because when I was being bullied I would have liked nothing more than to get revenge on the people who were bullying me. I like this factor in the film because it does allow you to enjoy the film more if you believe that the story could happen and that you do want to see Sam get justice over George. The thing that also makes me smile about this story is the fact that there is such a strong family bond between Sam and his brother Rocky and that Rocky is willing to help out Sam as soon as he finds out what is happening.
Acting in this film cannot be faulted and considering they are all relatively unknown actors I think we will hear a lot more from them all in the future if they take it up as a career. I always expect there to be some bad acting but there was none and the great thing about these young actors is they play their characters very well. I know that most of it is down to the script to show you who you are supposed to like and hate but these actors do the job well. Not only did I not like the fact that George is made out to be awful but I found that I began to hate the actual character, just the way that Peck was playing the role was making me not enjoy watching him. That is a true talent among actors if they manage to make you feel like that.
Because this is not exactly a mainstream movie, the camera work is not like you see in films such as The Matrix for example. I would say it looks somewhere in between great camera work and the sort of camera work you do when you do it yourself. What I mean by this is that sometimes it is pretty shaky and the colours and picture has not been enhanced as much as it would have if this film was a big Hollywood Blockbuster. It is not awful to watch though so dont get me wrong.
The only thing I cannot stand about films and that this film does do is when they have a bit of a rubbish ending. Now this is my only complaint but it is quite a big one and this film does end badly and leaves you with a sense of ok that has spoilt the film. To me there is nothing worse and I dont want to give away the ending so all I will say is that the ending is very abrupt and in my opinion they should have made it better and focused more on it.
Well that is all I can really tell you about this film as it is hard to say anymore without giving away what happens sp give it a go yourself.
In conclusion I am going to give this film four stars because it is a very good film in terms of acting, camera work and story. To be honest if the ending was as good as the rest of the film then it would have got five stars. I think you will enjoy this film if you like a bit of mystery, fun and intrigue in your movies.
Thanks for reading.
Now, before I start this review, it must be said that I do not generally like drama movies. The reason I actually watched this was down to a semi-drunken conversation with a mate, in which we were discussing movies. During this discussion, we went through the usual routine of "What's your favourite action / horror / sci-fi" etc, but when it got to dramas, he accused me of not having ever enjoyed one. My defence was the excellent movie, "The Shawshank Redemption", but he said that movie didn't count, as it was a Stephen King movie (and I am a big King fan). So, that also ruled out my other favourite dramas, "The Green Mile" and "Stand By Me"... and then, yes, I was actually stumped !!
With this in mind, I have started to discover a whole new genre with some unexpected results. The first drama I watched following this conversation was a 2004 movie, "Mean Creek"...
As the film opens, we are presented with a hard hitting (quite literally) scene of bullying, as a high school, overweight bully named George (Josh Peck) physically lays into a younger boy. When confronted by his older brother as to the origin of his injuries, the younger boy, Sam (played by Rory Culkin), admits to his brother that he is the victim of bullying.
Together, and with the help of some of their friends, they create a plan to get revenge on the bully by luring him into joining them for a river trip where they could get their own back for all the things he has done to Sam and the other victims.
The plan was flawless... or so they thought until things start to go wrong, and events that follow push everyone's friendships to the limit......
This is a fairly unusual modern movie, as Mean Creek does not rely on a huge budget, special effects or even a soundtrack to get the story across to the audience... it relies on just two elements - a good story and good acting !
The first thing that I noticed about this movie was the style of this film. Straight away it is obvious that this is not a big-budget Hollywood blockbuster. The opening shots are filmed on a camcorder, and throughout the film you get the feel that much of this was filmed on handheld cameras or rented equipment. The actual budget of the film was a tiny (in comparison to Hollywood movies) half a million dollars. Yet, rather than lower the standard of the film, it actually adds to the overall atmosphere of the movie. The occasionally grainy picture, and background noises such as the roar of water breaking over rocks, that were not edited out make the whole thing far more believable, with a sense that it could have been produced by the group of kids itself !
The film was shot entirely on location in and around Oregon - and you can see why... the scenery is amazing. High mountains, steep grassy riverbanks, stunning wildlife and crystal clear water make you wish you were there. Again, when producing a low-budget movie, why waste money on building lavish sets when you have the beauty of the countryside around you. The scenes in the town and it's outskirts resemble a stereotypical poor American town, with run-down petrol stations and wooden housing.
Much of the films success must be credited to the cast of children and young adults who, without exception, portray their characters in a believable and realistic way. When first viewing this film, I immediately recognised Rory Culkin (MacCaulay's younger brother) from previous movies such as Signs. I recognised a couple of other members of the cast, but could not place where I'd seen them before. This is probably due to the fact that up to this point, their appearances were on American television dramas.
Trevor Morgan plays Rocky, Sam's older brother. His previous roles include characters in ER, Baywatch and CSI. He also played the role of Erik in Jurassic Park 3.
The role of George, the bully, is portrayed by Josh Peck - again fairly unknown in the movie business. Peck deserves a special mention, as this must have been a very tough role. At the beginning of the movie we see George as a vicious thug - and immediately despise him, but as the movie progresses, you actually get to see that there is another, gentler side to him which makes him act the way that he does, and you end up feeling for him.
Amongst the group of lads, there is one girl - Sam's new girlfriend Millie, played by Carly Schroeder. Millie comes across as an innocent country girl who unwittingly gets involved in the plot to get revenge on George. As a young actress (she was 14 when this movie was filmed, but looks younger), Schroeder's character shines through with an amazing performance.
Again, though, it's the fact that no one steals the limelight that makes this film believable and such a success. Each is happy to play their own role to the best of their ability, and to react to each others performance.
Again, a lot of credit must go to the writer and director of Mean Creek - Jacob Aaron Estes. His story and vision reflects on both personal experiences and is influenced by other stories and movies. Despite this being only his second movie that he has been involved in, his lack of experience is totally hidden by the quality of the results.
As I mentioned right at the start of this review, I am a big Stephen King fan, and really enjoyed the movie "Stand By Me". This film does bear a strong resembalance to the King classic - it is essentially a story about a group of kids that go on an adventure, unaware and unprepared for what lays ahead. Both movies are about discovery and friendships, and the blissful innocence that only children can have. The general feel of the two movies are also closely matched.
However, this cannot take anything away from Mean Creek - indeed, it is a compliment to be compared to such a classic story and movie.
So, onto the big question... did I enjoy Mean Creek ? Well, I can honestly say that, with the exception of aforementioned Stephen King movies, this is one of the best dramas I have seen in a long, long time.
I was drawn into the story right from the start, and really felt part of the story - almost as if I was there watching events unfold. The story - whilst nothing really original - is captivating, and will leave you what's going to happen. There is an uneasy sense of fear throughout the movie, and right up to the end you don't know how things will unfold - and the fact that this is not a Hollywood movie, there are limitless posibillites.
When the end does come, I was actually slightly disappointed... not because it was poor, but rather I wanted more !! I actually feel as though I could have watched another hour or so of the film and still really enjoyed it.
Therefore, I have no hesitation in recommending this film to readers of this review - even if traditionally you don't like dramas, try and make room in your movie-watching experience for Mean Creek !
Set in a small Oregon town where secrets are hard to keep and lies even harder, Mean Creek flows with a simple elegance of truth and consequences as it follows a crisis in the lives of its teen characters, keenly directed by first-timer Jacob Aaron Estes. The journey within begins as a plot for playful payback on a local troublemaker; the journey onscreen begins with a river, as a ragtag group of troubled-and-not teenagers set out on a boat trip to celebrate the birthday of their youngest member. As a sort of boyish Heart of Darkness trip develops, cracks in the crew form when some of the teens have second thoughts about what they are about to do.