Director: Michael R. Roskam
Writer: Michael R. Roskam
Cast: Matthias Schoenaerts, Jeroen Perceval, Jeanne Dandoy
Language: Flemish, French
The film begins with the following monologue:
"Sometimes in a man's life stuff happens that makes everyone go quiet. So quiet that no one even dares talk about it. Not to anyone, not even to themselves. Not in their head and not out loud. Not a fucking word. Cos everything somehow got stuck. No matter how long ago it was, there will always be someone to bring it all back. Because no matter what you do or think, one thing is for sure, you're always fucked now, tomorrow, next week or next year, until the end of time, fucked."
It is basically the story of a young cattle farmer, Jacky, who is approached by a veterinarian to make a deal with a notorious beef trader. We are shown, through flashbacks, why the farmer is taking steroids in the same way that he is applying a different set of steroids to his cattle to beef them up. The trigger for the whole thing is him encountering someone from his past during a meet with the beef trader and it sets off a chain of events leading to him getting caught up inadvertently under the Police scanner due to a set of coincidences.
For Matthias Schoenaerts, the role is not very dissimilar from his role in Audiard's 'Rust and Bone', which also was a very physical performance while playing an unhinged character. The director trust the audience very much and doesn't spoon-feed them which helps in utilizing the time very well. It stands at just over two hours in length but you do get a feeling that a plenty have been told during that time with four sets of story strands going on-Jacky's business and his dealings with the beef trader, Jacky's past and his connect with the informant, informant and his dealings with the Police and finally Jacky's personal story with an awkward love interest. The whole of it appears seamless which is something the director should be proud of as it is very easy for him lose the audience either through lame expositions or utter confusion. That said, there is an exposition scene towards the end of the film which was really not needed as it was not that difficult to piece everything together without that itself.
Overall it is a great watch with a very interesting and unique story line. Michael R. Roskam had directed Tom Hardy starrer 'The Drop', from last year, which was also something that I enjoyed very much. Bullhead was nominated for academy awards in the foreign film category but lost out to 'A Separation'. The highlight of the film is of course the performance from Matthias Schoenaerts who is literally a bullhead in it.