Intensities in Ten Suburbs

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Eugoogly: Brad Renfro

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on January 16, 2008


People might say that the death of Brad Renfro, struck down from as-of-yet undetermined-circumstances at the seemingly ripe age of 25, was a tragic one. And though all deaths are probably tragic, you have to remember that ex-kid stars still in the public eye age in something equivalent to dog years (making Jodie Foster probably the oldest person on the planet–which kind of makes sense, doesn’t it?). Given that Renfro first appeared on the scene in ’94 in the Joel Schumacher-directed Grisham adaptation The Client at age 12–arguably the most high-profile role he’d have until his death–he led a long, full life, comparatively. So we need not weep his demise, but rather, celebrate his existence.

Come to think of it, I never actually saw The Client–one Grisham movie adaptation was all I had room for in my life at the time, I suppose, and I had already seen The Firm about eight times. I have vague memories of some of his other kiddie roles–Huck in Tom & Huck (JTT, that media whore, got all the attention at the time as Tom), Young Michael Sullivan in Sleepers (yet another to add to the thousands of Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon connections I can use with that movie, hooray) and Todd Bowden in Apt Pupil (which I also somehow never saw, despite it being Bryan Singer’s follow-up to Usual Suspects, my favorite movie ever at the time)–but really, I didn’t associate him with being a child star until a question about him poked up in a Child Star category of the first year of the WSOPC (which, incidentally, I would never have gotten right).

Rather, the Brad Renfro that endures in my memory is the young adult of two 2001 releases, Ghost World and Bully. These roles suggested Renfro’s skill at playing the male equivalent of the dumb blonde–the convenience store worker lusted after from afar (and occasionally from uncomfortably close) by Thora Birch and Scarlett Johnasson in the former, and the surfer dude hatching the dumbest murder plot in history with the help of six of his closest friends and associates in the latter. Renfro was required to do little in these roles but play dumb and look good (appropriate enough, in the case of Ghost World at least, since it would also be one of the last times Johansson was required to do more).

If his real life rap sheet–problems with alcohol and drugs, climaxing in an attempt to flee from the cops on a boat that was still tied to the dock–is any indication, Renfro probably didn’t have to act all too hard at the roles either. Still, they earn him a place in pop culture history, for me at least, given that they give him pivotal roles in both one of the best teen movies of all-time and one of the worst (but most unintentionally hilarious). Who can forget him sobbing to girlfriend Rachel Miner about what a meanie his friend Nick Stahl is, while a glob of drool hangs from his mouth the whole time? Or the hysterical sulk-walk he does before gut-punching Stahl in a moment of inexpressible fury? OK, on the off-chance you even saw the movie, you’ve probably long forgotten both these scenes by now, but Bully was one of the biggest movie-night fixtures among my group of friends in High School–topped only by Jennifer Lopez’s spousal-abuse meisterwerk Enough and Fred Williamson’s blaxploitation classic The Messenger.

And at the risk of offending the more macho contingent of IITS’s readership, I’ll admit it–I was totally gay for the dude. He was like the Mark McGrath of the film world, dark, pouty eyes, So-Cal sun-tanned skin, muscular surfer body, the whole deal. Plus, Bully being a Larry Clark movie, he (like the entire rest of the cast) was featured half-naked for the great majority of the flick–though, luckily, he escaped the venture without being the recipient quite as many gratuitous crotch shots as Bijou Phillips. I’d be lying if I said it didn’t make an impression. (And yes, I’m aware that dude attractiveness has been a rather frequent subject here recently–don’t worry, got an entire week’s worth of posts about cars, cigars and whiskey coming up after this one).

So long, Brad. Maybe I’ll try to track down a copy of Deuces Wild sometime this weekend–I always suspected that movie had great potential for underrated hilarity.

RIP Brad Renfro, 1982-2008

4 Responses to “Eugoogly: Brad Renfro”

  1. Millie said

    Don’t get your hopes up about Deuces Wild. It reeks with overacting but redeems itself with a strong performance by Matt Dillon and a brief Johnny Knoxville cameo.

  2. Ken Munson said

    Anyone who would call “Bully” one of the worst teen movies ever made can only be called a worthless human being. A completely indefensible statement, Unterberger.

  3. Andrew Unterberger said

    I meant that qualification with affection only.

  4. What’s up i am kavin, its my first occasion to commenting anyplace, when i read this paragraph i thought i could also create comment due to this sensible paragraph.

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