Achieving the rare combination of subtlety and brutality, Bullhead is one of the most striking debuts of recent years. Directed by Michael Roskam and starring Matthias Schoenaerts (Rust and Bone) Bullhead is a bruising and uniquely brilliant film that is entirely deserving of your attention, as it is one of the most compelling and intense films to have emerged this year.
Matthias Schoenaerts is a revelation as turbulent cattle farmer Jacky, a juggernaut of a man, laced with menace and malevolence, who practically bursts out of the screen. Illegally injecting growth hormones in his animals, Jacky finds himself linked to the Flemish mafia, who soon become interested in his produce. The murder of a policeman at the hands of the Mafia complicates matters further and it isn’t long before Jacky is associated with the death. Added to this is the arrival of Jacky’s childhood friend Diederik (Jeroen Perceval), a police informer who stirs up memories of Jacky’s fraught past.
Bullhead isn’t so much of a crime thriller as a riveting character study of a man who is kept prisoner by his own self-hatred and rage. The film really hits its stride when we are given a glimpse into Jacky’s childhood. From this point on we find ourselves empathising with Jacky, despite his penchant for often appalling behaviour. It is clear that this is a character both emotionally broken and destructive who cannot escape his traumatic past. In that sense, Bullhead is a tragedy, but one that is far too visceral to slide into sentimentality.
Putting masculinity under the microscope, Bullhead is gripping, intense and provocative. Far more than a crime film, Bullhead is a shattering tale of a troubled man, plagued by an existence that never offers any hope. Hypnotically directed with searing originality, Bullhead isn’t so much as a tap on the shoulder but a punch in the face, which will undoubtedly leave audiences astounded.
Watch the trailer for Bullhead here