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Mean Creek
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Reviews & Ratings for
Mean Creek More at IMDbPro »

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3 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

Dark and and well made

8/10
Author: browskiiix23 from United States
18 May 2007

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The film is very very well made, and it was much better than the advertisements lead me to believe. It also has a very dark storyline, it's about how a group of kids want to get even with a playground bully played by Josh Peck. It gets very interesting when the prank goes terribly wrong and they accidentally kill the bully. It's rare to see such a great cast in the film, each of the actors is very talented for being so young.

But if i had to give all the credit to one of the actors, i'd give it to Josh Peck, the character of the bully is a very strange character and it seems as though it would be difficult to create on screen, but Peck does an incredible job. One scene he's nice the next scene he's almost so terrible to the other characters, it's unsettling to watch. I give this movie a strong recommendation, for a great storyline, great performances, and a very well made film.

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3 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

A Well-Made Movie, but its worth more than that

8/10
Author: BigBadaBruce from United Kingdom
22 March 2007

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This movie has a very simple storyline that most people have probably thought of before. If you could get revenge on the guy or girl who bullies you, would you? and if you would, what would be the consequences? This movie asks that question, and is well-made. The bully, George, seems at first just a horrible lad, a obvious bully, but what happens when you get under the surface? You meet the real George? Is all what it seems on the surface? Very good acing from George, great actor. You wouldn't expect it from "The Amanda Show" and "Drake and Josh", no offence. The victim is Sam, young lad, played by Rory Culkin, a name with history in Hollywood. Sam, is the sort of lad who is very set in his ideals, he doesn't want to be like George, he wants to be good. Buyt inside, he slightly wants to get revenge, motivated by his brother Rocky. Rocky, the type of older brother you wish you had, funny, smart and looks after you, what more could you want? Has great nice-ability, lovely actor. Then the friends roped in.... Millie, Sam's "girlfriend", who seems to like Sam but is nervous, like most 14 year old girls, she embarks on this story unknowing of what will happen, and maybe the most innocent there. Then you have Rocky's friends, the effeminate but kind Clyde, the sort of friend most people love to have, just a kind lad, who sometimes seems picked on because of his parents, the gay male couple. And finally, Marty, the bad boy, a possible cliché who is made into a 3-d character with emotions and reasoning. All of the characters are real human beings with emotions and other sides to them, which makes what happens all the more interesting...... A brilliant first-time movie by the director, and an interesting ideal behind it. If you could revenge yourself up on your bully, would you.....

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10 out of 17 people found the following review useful:

Excellent teen character study

9/10
Author: F Gwynplaine MacIntyre from Minffordd, North Wales
30 January 2005

One of the greatest movies ever made is 'A Place in the Sun'. Based on a true murder case, this story features a protagonist who takes his pregnant ex-girlfriend on a boating trip with the intention of drowning her so he won't have to marry her. At the last moment, he has a pang of conscience (or did he just lose his nerve?) and he confesses his intentions to her ... but then the boat capsizes by accident, and she drowns anyway. The film refuses to let the protagonist off the hook, asserting that -- if he felt relieved by her death -- then he is morally guilty of murdering her.

SPOILERS COMING. 'Mean Creek' raises similar moral questions, in a plot line that evokes not only 'A Place in the Sun', but also 'River's Edge', 'Stand by Me' and 'Deliverance', the latter film even quoted in the dialogue. Four adolescent boys lure teenage George on a boating trip, intending to play a cruel prank on him. A girl comes along too, unaware of their intentions. When she learns what's planned, she persuades the conspirators to call off their plot. But then tragedy intervenes, and George drowns. How culpable are the boys? They literally dig themselves into a deeper hole by burying George's corpse, hoping to conceal the tragedy.

'Mean Creek' features some of the most realistic adolescent dialogue I've ever heard. The boys bait each other with insults that are misogynist and homophobic. (One boy, Clyde, has two gay fathers.) Although the dialogue pulls no punches, the camera set-ups pull several. At one point, a boy urinates into the river: we see the stream of urine but the boy is out of frame. The most aggressive of the boys, Marty, makes several boasts about his genital endowment. Eventually, he is goaded into dropping his shorts and showing his stuff: the camera shoots this scene from behind, so we never find out what the fuss is about.

Director/screenwriter Jacob Aaron Estes shows a great deal of talent, but makes a few strange decisions. At several points, the camera shows us printed words on a sign or a bumper sticker ... but then the camera pulls away, or the object recedes from the camera, before most of the audience can read what's written. The script is nearly as good as the dialogue, with splendid exposition and only a few pacing problems.

MORE SPOILERS. Very early in the film, we learn that Marty owns a handgun. Chekhov's rules of drama stipulate that if a gun shows up in the story, it must eventually be fired. The payoff for this weapon shows up very late in the film, in an unexpected way (and the gun is never fired). In this case, it would have been better if the gun had never been mentioned nor shown until Marty decided to use it. Throughout this film there is a running directorial conceit, with sequences shown from the P.O.V. of George's video camera, but there turns out to be a valid payoff for this.

Every performance in this movie is splendid. I was especially impressed with Rory Culkin (Macaulay's more talented brother), Carly Schroeder as the well-intentioned girl, and Josh Peck as fat unpopular George, who clearly wants to be popular yet can't help being unpleasant. I'll rate 'Mean Creek' 9 out of 10, and I look forward to more films from Jacob Aaron Estes.

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2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

The actors make this a very good film about how fragile childhood can be.

7/10
Author: dermottferry from derry, ireland
12 April 2008

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This is a relatively short film at just over 80 minutes long. But when it is done, you feel like you have followed the people in the movie for a far longer period of time. It is an absorbing, tension filled, emotional roller-coaster ride, and the whole cast are great.

George is the school bully. This seems like a cliché for a film that focuses on youngsters. But we soon learn that he is a kid with a lot of problems. After he beats up Sam, the time for George to be put in his place arrives. So Sam, along with brother Rocky, Clyde, and Marty, hatch a plan that will see George forced to jump in the river during a boat trip and have to run home naked. Another member of the group, Millie, played by the excellent Carly Schroeder, is reluctant to go along with the plan.

As the boating trip progresses, the group eventually see that George isn't the bully he appears to be. So the whole joke is called off, and we see them continue with the trip by doing what youngsters should do everyday of their lives, having fun and enjoying themselves.

But in an instant everything changes. A moment of madness effectively ends a childhood and the groups lives are changed forever.

I think everyone should watch this film, they will go away with something to think about. And the film will stay with you for a long time.

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2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

Fine drama/thriller with excellent acting

7/10
Author: tankjonah from Australia
5 May 2006

Sam (Rory Culkin) has been bullied by fat, mean and obnoxious George (Josh Peck) with the latest incident (which opens the film) seeing him bashed leading to substantial bruises. Soon there is talk of revenge and with encouragement from his older brother (Trevor Morgan) and especially his brother's friend (Scott Mechlowicz) they ask George to a day on their boat to celebrate Sam's birthday. This is all just a ruse to humiliate George but, not surprisingly, things get out of hand. The plot is simple, perhaps even clichéd and in some ways predictable. However, the reason the film works so well is because of its excellent and convincing performances and realistic, believable characters. Sam's girlfriend (Carly Schroeder) is also along for the trip but she was unaware of the plans and in a way could be argued to be the film's stock female character. The film manages to remain suspenseful and gripping with some unexpected revelations which irrevocably change the character's lives.

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3 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

Good

7/10
Author: Cosmoeticadotcom (cosmoetica@gmail.com) from United States
14 September 2008

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Mean Creek is a very Stand By Me-like film, also set in Oregon, that deals with young people's reactions to death. Unlike that earlier film, set in the 1950s, this contemporary 2004 film by first time filmmaker Jacob Estes is quite a bit darker, almost a teen Deliverance. It follows the machinations by four boys to get revenge on a fat kid for his beating up of one of them. The intended victim is a fat bully named George (Josh Peck, from Nickelodeon's The Amanda Show), who has obvious mental problems that cause him to live in his own world and react violently to the world. The film opens with his bullying a shrimpy blond kid named Sam (Rory Culkin). This causes Rory and his brother Rocky (Trevor Morgan) to scheme with Rocky's two other pals, Clyde (Ryan Kelley)- who is sexually sensitive due to his two gay fathers, and bad boy Marty (Scott Mechlowicz, from Lizzie McGuire), from a shattered home. Marty is the oldest in the group, and most eager to vent his rage on fat George, because he in turn is bullied by his older brother Kyle (Brandon Williams) and Kyle's pal Jasper (Heath Lourwood), much the way the young boys of Stand By Me (also four in number) were bullied by Kiefer Sutherland's band of misfits…. the film succeeds mostly due to its young actors. Peck, as George, displays a truly complex character- a child at once seemingly an idiot savant, a prodigy, a sweet, noble boy, and a budding psychopath. He is constantly measuring others in his life to see where he stands. Peck even acknowledges this nuance in the commentary- a terrific observation for someone so young. His character also lives a life of relative privilege the other kids do not, and is the only one aware of the dangers of drinking and driving. Culkin shows that his older brother Kieran is not the only good actor in his clan. Schroeder, as the only girl, really shines as a voice of reason, as does Kelley's character, Clyde. Even Mechlowicz shows depth in his scenes with his character's brother, and reacting to George's taunts at his character's father. He even has a mix of a James Dean/Brad Pitt appeal, and could be a major film star/heartthrob of the future. Only Morgan's Rocky is not particularly memorable- most likely because he is neither bullied nor bully, strong-willed nor well-principled, and that may be due more to the role than the actor. That said, while it's the least well-written part in the film, it's far above most standard teen roles.

The title is misleading, for the creek they travel on is not mean, merely indifferent, unless one looks at the title as metaphorically implying that the characters are at the mean of their ethical centers and choices. The film's also one of the better representations of male (not macho) attitudes in formation, and never gets too self-indulgent in male ritual, due to its lean hour and a half length. Overall, this is a film eminently worth seeing, but one that also underscores how asinine the Motion Picture Association of America's censorious ratings system is. This film is given an R, due to the kids' use of curse words, when this is exactly the kind of film that kids should see, while gory, gratuitous violence-filled tripe gets a PG-13 rating. The density of our nation's leaders is frightening in its lack of any complexity. The cursing is used perfectly in context, and very naturally, and never gratuitously. Any kid the age of the actors has already said 'Fuck' ten thousand times in their lives, so the idea that the MPAA is shielding anyone from anything is a joke!

Rent or buy this DVD and you will likely not be disappointed, despite the couple of missteps near the end, and even the first of them is almost redeemed by the scenes of the kids confessing, after hashing out their ethical views. Were more films as good and serious as this both the Right and Left Wings of this country might stop trying to censor art. One can hope, eh?

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3 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

Mean Creek asks uncomfortable questions about bullying

8/10
Author: Chris_Docker from United Kingdom
8 May 2005

A group of school kids set off on a boat trip planning to teach a bully a lesson he won't forget . . .

It's a story that could easily be turned into a standard plan-gone-wrong story and deteriorate into a run-of-the-mill teen horror flick. But instead Mean Creek is an understated and surprisingly thought-provoking film that has understandably been notching up a few awards worldwide.

Sam, a young lad (maybe about 12) gets a serious kicking from a very overweight boy, George, who flies into a rage when Sam goes near his camcorder. It has a visceral feel to it that makes us slow down and question. The opening shot is the view from the camcorder, then switches to a very ordinary 'normal' shot as the beating continues. Through the film, the cameras often change, contrasting stunningly beautiful river shots with very mundane ones or 'camcorder' quality. It's almost as if we're being shown several ways of viewing things - which one is right? Sam's brother organises the group and 'invites' George on the boating trip, with a plan to humiliate him, but Sam invites his 'girlfriend' Millie along without telling her the plan. Difficulties arise when she finds out, and also by now we know that George has learning difficulties and genuinely tries hard to be a nice person, even though he is prey to sudden rages.

In this scenario of shifting sympathies, the film focuses on the inward, unspoken thoughts of the characters. For instance, we watch as Millie struggles inwardly with the moral dilemmas. There is also the contrast between the loud-mouthed bravado of all the kids and their more thoughtful, intelligent side - one that we so often don't see when viewing children at large.

Their difficulties in resolving the problem are mirrored by our own - bullying is not a problem adults have been able to 'solve' - in fact violence in schools seems to have escalated in the past decade. Do we try to understand? discipline? exclude? Education has rushed ahead, banning corporal punishment, but the advanced 'people skills' we aspire to have, that can defuse any situation without the threat of more old-fashioned methods of discipline, haven't quite caught up. Order breaks down and the worst instincts may in some cases get free rein.

There's a moment in the film when we wonder if the children will go down a path that would perhaps save George by putting their new-found compassion for him into practice, but would it work long term? When children leave school for the wider world they enter a system where force is used as a last resort, but even that use of just force has lost some of the respect that it should have to be effective. At one point in the film, where they argue over the best course of action and where prison might be just a faint possibility were the resultant crimes confessed, the dissuading argument by the ringleader is about "going to prison and getting raped every night for the rest of your life" - showing a (perhaps believable) lack of faith in the justice system. America has one of the highest incarceration rates per head of population of any modern country, yet violence continues undiminished. One of the threads of the film suggests that the heavy-handedness of the justice system draws people into criminality because they feel that, having strayed a little, they have no choice but to embrace a life on the wrong side of the law.

When I was at school (in a time when caning had almost, but not quite, been completely phased out), I had been bullied frequently by one boy (who picked on many kids). We had a liberal gym teacher who accepted my suggestion that I challenge the bully to a fair fight with boxing gloves. It worked - we knocked hell out of each other for a few minutes then laughed about it in the changing rooms - and he didn't bully me or my friends again. We had learnt the idea of 'fair' or 'justified' violence that is very different from emotional, uncontrolled outbursts. Punishment should both be controlled and for the benefit of the recipient, so that the growing mind can learn correct ways. If punishment (or reasoning) is ineffective (as it often is now in our school system) then we are letting down those children who need it. Perhaps liberalism in schools has gone too far.

Made with considerable self-discipline, Mean Creek (with a budget of just £260,000), proves that American indie cinema is alive and kicking.

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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

Raw, realistic coming-of-age drama

7/10
Author: Leofwine_draca from United Kingdom
5 January 2013

MEAN CREEK reminds me a lot of Stephen King's STAND BY ME and William Golding's LORD OF THE FLIES, looking at the issue of childhood bullying and exploring what happens when the tables are turned on a bully by one of his victims.

It's a haunting, evocative, beautifully shot little movie, one of those low budget indie efforts that eschews special effects and melodrama in favour of solid characterisation and tight, focused scripting. You get caught up in the lives of the characters right from the outset and the film keeps you glued to the screen until the last moments.

The young cast members are excellent, bringing to life the grittiness and authenticity of the storyline. As the bully, Josh Peck is particularly engaging, remaining an irritating and unpleasant character throughout but somehow eliciting sympathy from the audience at the same time. All in all, this is a tough, uncompromising little movie that proves a refreshing alternative to the latest Hollywood blockbuster.

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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

Good Film, But Never Quite Reaching the Level of Great

7/10
Author: gavin6942 from United States
3 December 2012

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

When a teen (Rory Culkin) is bullied, his brother and friends lure the bully into the woods to seek vengeance.

While this film is highly predictable, that does nothing to take away from it. The simple plot of revenge gone wrong is not judged by the plot itself but by its execution. And the execution here is rather well done. Not perfect, mind you, but quite good just the same.

George (Josh Peck) is a difficult character. While it is hard to love him, there is definitely an emotional divide: do we dislike him or feel sorry for him? Can we do both simultaneously? The film tests the audience as much as it tries to expose the world of bullies.

There are a few questionable plot switches later on in the film, but nothing completely unbelievable. More surprising is how much the film focuses on building up to the key moment rather than dealing with it after the fact. The third act is short, leaving many questions in its wake.

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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

An excellent depiction of young characters pushed into a tightening net of morals and incident; in what is a lean, Mean drama with a lot going for it.

7/10
Author: johnnyboyz from Hampshire, England
16 August 2011

If Stand by Me was the film about the youngsters venturing off into the woods to rather ill-advisedly discover a dead body, American filmmaker Jacob Estes' appealing 2004 drama Mean Creek is the film about a group of youngsters venturing off into the woods and ill-advisedly getting themselves into all sorts of bother creating a dead body. The film is a brooding, broiling and quite wondrous piece about a serviceable plot to do with family ties; revenge and coming of age, but with a distinct undercurrent of masculinity hovering gently underneath proceedings and providing it with that tinge of tragedy. The joy does not lie purely with the getting to the catalyst which will go on to forge these children's lives, although the getting there is some brilliantly constructed realist cinema doing well to elevate it above most other teenage orientated picture or ugly revenge thriller; rather, the director manages to find an indelible balance of hope; reassurance; terror and tragedy, in what is quite a feature debut.

The film unfolds in a backwater town in the state of Oregon, a state offering a hot; humid; bothering and swamp-like quality which persistently overlies the film. There isn't really much in the way of a lead character to speak of, the bulk of it consisting of young men of the cusp of some sort of adulthood loitering with one another in large clumps; often clad in vests extenuating their muscles, these boys spend most of their days speaking of their manliness and vehemently dismiss topics that might lead onto homosexuality that rear up. Much later on, when everyone is deeper in the mire than anybody would consciously want, one of the young men pleads with another to go away with him; as if they were a partner-of-old the begging party desperately feared loosing. But that particular instance, a crescendo of the homoeroticism rife in the text, is a long way off. When we begin, it is with that of a composition looking directly out at the world through an amateur camcorder perspective, a composition of which captures that of George (Peck) - effectively a child in comparison to certain others within the film, but an overweight individual residing in a local high school who's been kept back in years and, try as he might, misses his basketball shots.

George might be read into as essentially being Mean Creek's 'villain', but the film handles his presence so delicately, that it does really well to refrain from demonising the fat character as the trouble maker lacking in intelligence and sporting ability. In fact, we sense George himself is a victim of marginalisation within the world that he exists; sporting a tough, if nominally vacant, home life with sleepy looking parents more interested in exercising than enquiring as to where their children are going for the afternoon with a car load of young adults – the film is even suggestive that since he seemingly fails in most of the aforementioned fields of sport and academia, he appears to have this knack or interest in documentary filmmaking: shooting most of his life and pastimes with the camera.

At that high school, Rory Culkin's Sam tampers with the camera out of interest during that opening shot and receives a harsh beating from the bigger boy; something which close to all but enrages his elder brother Rocky (Morgan) and provokes him into concocting a scheme to get even. The core of the idea needs to involve that of Rocky's friends; two young men about as old as Rocky named Clyde (Kelley) and the more temperamental Marty (Mechlowicz), whom suffered a family bereavement not so long ago. The boys appear to treat the isolated town in which they live as if it were their own; they saunter out of fast food outlets in that cocksure and overly confident manner one might at that age when one is without much care for anything. In ambling down the street in the middle of the road, they get across this perception that they've of the opinion automobiles ought to move for them; their wayward thinking appearing rife in that one of the boys enjoys a smoke and speaks of how, years ago, they were prepared, although daft enough, to position themselves on the actual roof of a house during a game of hide and seek so as to avoid loosing the triviality of the game. An idea rears up in the form of false-birthday party for Sam, for which George is invited; a birthday which will encompasses a trip down a nearby river on one of those ropey looking boats that often screams "trouble", but a trip that'll see George humbled for his assault on Sam through means of eventual humiliation involving the stealing of his clothes.

Estes captures life in-between these people perfectly; in dealing with a screenplay predominantly featuring those no older than about seventeen but no younger than about twelve, the man has managed to arrest the differing natures and attitudes to life as well as life at that age through some wonderful dialogue. The film additionally displays a remarkable eye for constructing something as routine as a boat trip as this tense, bubbling ride down a road to a proverbial Hell, in which tempers rise and morals fray; the majority of the boat coming to see George as the flawed, victimised human being he is although a labelling they are only going on to regrettably enforce. To go on would be to say too much. The film is rife with an array of performances by people playing characters who are all at once scared; angry and in a state of grieving, each of them as accomplished as the next. Mean Creek is a brooding mess of a situation made worse by egotisms and a lack of communication that begin with the adults therein and ends with the kids once they've passed the line – the likes of which make for good viewing.

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