This Belgian drama features international actor Mattias Schoenaerts in one of his best performances as a man whose dependencies get the best of him.
Cattle rancher Jacky Vanmarsenille is seen threatening an elderly man for not accepting his family’s cattle for their meat. Jacky and his family have relied on Sam Raymond, who provides hormones for the cattle so they can get better meat, meaning better money for the family. However, Jacky has his own problems. He has become dependent on steroids and hormones and when a deal with Belgian “hormone mafia” boss Marc DeKuyper is offered, Jacky lets his fears get the best of him.
That will soon become the least of Jacky’s problems. Jacky has learned that his childhood friend Diederik is working for DeKuyper, yet Jacky denies even knowing him. The friendship was broken due to a childhood incident that would begin Jacky’s potentially dangerous dependencies. Even more the shocking, Jacky’s long lost crush Lucia has become a perfume counter worker and Jacky’s become somewhat obsessed with her. Things come to ahead when the death of an undercover police officer somehow becomes connected to Jacky, who tries to clear his name in all the chaos.
This Academy Award nominated film from writer-director Michaël R. Roskam is truly an interesting, at times disturbing movie to watch. While the film focuses on the character of Jacky, a man whose dependencies get the best of him both mentally and physically, some supporting characters prove to be just as pivotal as our lead character her. The title truly refers to the lead character, who is a cattle rancher but as well is in fact “bull-headed” due to his habits.
Matthias Schoenarts truly is exciting to watch as the very challenged Jacky. When one thinks of “challenge”, one can think mentally or physically. In this case, Jacky is both. The dependencies of injecting steroids and hormones cause to make Jacky sometimes violent, as seen in his first scene, to that of both depressed and disillusioned when he is offered to make a deal with Marc, the head of the Flemish “hormone mafia”, who do business selling illegal hormones for cows. As for the physical portion, we learn through flashbacks of a very traumatic incident in which Jacky was once a good kid who crossed the wrong person by accident and ends up in a very dangerous position. It is also here where we learn why his friendship with his best friend had been broken, even as they reunite with the friend working for Marc.
Jerome Percevel does great as Diederik, who not only must contend with trying to repair his friendship with Jacky, but also must act as an informer for the local police, who are investigating the death of a police officer who was undercover in Marc’s gang. Jeanne Dandoy does well as the one-time childhood crush of Jacky’s who soon becomes an obsession of his as follows him. There in a “McGuffin” of the film that connects the murder and Jacky and it involves two bumbling mechanics who throughout the movie attempt at comic relief but it turns out to irritating as they whine and moan about the events that transpire. While one would think that Marc, played by Sam Louwyck, would be the villain, it is truly not the case. The real villain is one man who is left with no choice but to fight himself in an attempt to save his own life.
Bullhead is a worthy look at one man whose most dangerous enemy is himself as he lets his dependencies truly get the best of him, driven by a very intimidating yet at times disturbing performance by Matthias Schoenaerts.
WFG RATING: B+
A Savage Film production in association with Eyeworks Limited. Director: Michaël R. Roskam. Producer: Bart van Langendonck. Writer: Michaël R. Roskam. Cinematography: Nicolas Karakatsanis. Editing: Alain Dessauvage.
Cast: Matthias Schoenaerts, Jeroen Perceval, Jeanne Dandoy, Barbara Sarafian, Tibo Vandenborre, Frank Lammers, Sam Louwyck, Erico Salamone, Philippe Grand’Henry.