Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Film Review: Bullhead (2011)

Bullhead (or Rundskop) (Review)
Belgium/2011
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: No

Jacky Vanmarsenille (Matthias Schoenaerts), a cattle farmer, is given the opportunity to deal with a shady beef trader through a questionable veterinarian. However, the death of a policeman investigating the illegal use of hormones and the secrets Jacky's past surface causing a chain reaction with Jacky caught in the middle.

The story starts off in the present with Jacky being asked to be a part of a shady deal. There is no harm in talking, so he agrees to a meeting. At the meeting, a disgruntled Jacky recognizes his past and notices something is afoot - something is not right. So far, the story is too complex and slow to really be impactful or effective - I was not hooked to the story as much as I was hooked onto Jacky's character. Fortunately, the story begins to unravel as Jacky's past is told through several disjointed flashbacks. Jacky is tormented by his past, which explains his use of hormones, and his past also influences how he deals with his current situation. Without spoiling much, it continues to focus on Jacky's characters, his past, and his love interest, much more than it focuses on the situation at hand - that is, the current deal. In other words, it is heavily character-driven, which is not bad.

Bullhead starts off slow and confusing. Jumping from location to location, character to character, and so on with little explanation. It eventually begins to focus on Jacky and his past, which includes a brutal accident and a broken friendship - both which continue to haunt him throughout the story. Jacky's character takes center stage, instead of the current hormone and beef situation every other character is concerned with. I'm fine with that since Jacky is fully and realistically developed. His character is mesmerizing from the confusing introduction to the brutal, thought-provoking finale. There are many scenes that are genuinely gripping, and a few scenes that may make you cringe. I've purposely left out some vital parts of the story, I believe this will benefit those that haven't seen it and make it a more tense experience.

The acting is fantastic from the entire cast. Matthias Schoenaerts really delivers as Jacky. His performance is the strongest aspect of the film, it works as a pillar to a film that would otherwise be about average. He shows emotion through his actions and facial expressions as much as he does through his dialogue; you can see the pain in his eyes, you can see a tormented soul. Although his performance is an anchor, the rest of the cast did a wonderful job keeping up; especially Jeroen Perceval as Diederik, a friend of Jacky, who suffers with his inner demons and past as well. The film is shot beautifully, wonderful cinematography. The music was effective and really matched the tone of the film. It has a very art house approach, which I didn't mind.

Overall, Bullhead is a character-driven film with an interesting story and a great ending; a film that is strongly supported by its magnificent performances. The story does feel like it takes the back seat throughout most of the film, but it still has an evident presence and significance, and the story really lacks a hook. I recommend a rental before purchasing, unless you're a fan of the genre or are accustomed to slow-paced dramas and art house films.

Score: 7/10
Parental Guide: Strong violence and blood, and nudity.

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