When a teen is bullied, his brother and friends lure the bully into the woods to seek vengeance.
Release Year: 2004
Rating: 7.3/10 (16,903 voted)
Critic's Score: 74/100
Jacob Aaron Estes
Stars: Rory Culkin, Ryan Kelley, Scott Mechlowicz
When Sam Merrick is beaten up by local bully George Tooney, Sam's older brother Rocky and his friends Clyde and Marty plan to pretend it's Sam's birthday to "invite" George on a boat trip in which they would dare him to strip naked, jump in the lake, and run home naked. But when Sam, his girlfriend Millie, Rocky, and Clyde see George as not much of a bad guy, they want to call off the plan, but Marty refuses. Will the plan go ahead as planned?
(as James W. Crawford)
Handsome Police Officer
Beneath the surface, everyone has a secret.
Whitewater Films |
Release Date: 29 September 2004
Filming Locations: Clackamas River, Clackamas, Oregon, USA
Box Office Details
Opening Weekend: $29,170
(22 August 2004)
Did You Know?
The names that Martini (Marty) says during shooting practice are all names of various cast and crew members: Mr. (Hagai) Shaham (producer, actor – Handsome Police Officer); Mr. (Jacob Aaron) Estes (director, screenwriter); Ms (Susan and Joan) Johnson (producer and production coordinator); Mr. (Rick) Rosenthal (producer).
When Marty pushes Sam and Millie's heads together. His cigarette is in his hand (at 42:16), then in his mouth (at 42:29) and finally back in the hand (at 42:34).
Hey! What do you think you're doing? You're a punk, Sam!
Intelligent, superbly acted and thoroughly absorbing
I knew next to nothing about this film when I went to see it. I knew it
starred Rory Culkin, who was so good in 2000's best film, "You Can
Count on Me," and received some critical acclaim. But I knew nothing
about the story and what a wonderful surprise "Mean Creek" proved to
This is an intelligent, engaging movie buoyed by some of the best
acting by young actors this year. Writer-director Jacob Aaron Estes,
who won a 1998 Nicholl Fellowship in Screen writing for his script,
takes the basic premise of revenge against a school bully and turns it
into a moving and gripping film. Incidentally, this is the second
terrific movie to come out of that Nicholl class – the other was Karen
Moncrieff's "Blue Car," one of last year's best films.
Given the subject matter, "Mean Creek" could easily have been another
after-school special masquerading as an indie feature. But Estes
eschews the conventions of the genre to give his characters unexpected
depth and create an engrossing morality play. None of his characters is
a caricature; they're all flawed and unmistakably human. The moral
issues they face are real and complex; the crises they create are dealt
What's special about "Mean Creek" are its fine young actors. Culkin
again is convincing as a skittish young boy being picked on by the
school bully, but the two startlingly brilliant performances are by
Josh Peck as the bully George, and Carly Schroeder as Millie, the young
girl unexpectedly dragged into the plot.
Peck makes George captivating when he could just as easily made him a
typical, one-note bully. Peck gives George substance and turns on the
charm so well that we understand the others' reluctance to go through
with exacting his comeuppance. George becomes likable, someone who
seems to resort to bullying to hide inadequacies of his own. Peck draws
us into his character; we feel sympathy for someone who is supposed to
The flaw in Estes' writing is that after making George someone who
elicits compassion, Estes unwisely opts for an easy way out by forcing
George to turn to his uglier side. Had George suddenly not turned mean,
the moment would have been far more potent than it already is.
Young Schroeder is downright extraordinary. Her Millie is mature way
beyond her years. She serves as the group's moral core and Schroeder's
scenes in the immediate aftermath of a tragedy are so astonishingly
raw, you're likely to forget she's a young teen actress. Hers is one of
the best supporting performances the year.
"Mean Creek" is one of the best coming-of-age films. All teenagers and
their parents should see this, despite its R rating. It's unfortunate
the MPAA gave "Mean Creek" an R rating because despite the use of the
F-word, "Mean Creek" is far less offensive than much of the PG-13-rated
garbage – the more recent "Charlie's Angels" movies, for instance – and
provides more enjoyment and insight into human behavior in five minutes
than almost any mainstream movie playing right now.