One of the boys

Jacob Aaron Estes’s debut feature is being marketed as a Columbine-era fable about a bully who gets his comeuppance. But the film works on levels far more precipitous and challenging.

Mean Creek begins abruptly with 13 year-old Sam (Rory Culkin) taking a schoolyard beating from George (Josh Peck). No one comes to Sam’s aid, so he is left to limp home and lick his wounds. But his older brother, Rocky (Trevor Morgan), won’t let it go at that. Remembering his own experience with playground injustice, Rocky enlists a couple of his pals—soft-spoken Clyde (Ryan Kelley) and short-fused Marty (Scott Mechlowicz)—to help teach George a lesson. Sam, still feeling the sting of humiliation, agrees to join in an elaborate prank, to be staged on a boat ride, though part of him knows that this is not a good thing to do.

 

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