User ReviewsReview this title
I'm both sorry and glad I did.
I think the lead actor in this movie, Matthias Schoenaerts (who, incidentally, should have been cast as Bane in Batman Rises. He IS Bane) has a bright future in Hollywood. Certainly I know I'll be checking out his other movies, now that I'm aware of him.
Bullhead constantly threw me for a loop and kept me on my toes all at the same time.
The obvious simpatico between director Michael R. Roskam and Mr. Schoenaerts is evident in the constant tension and slight unease that's able to be maintained throughout the entire movie, even during the "softer" (if you can call them that) moments of the film. The scenes of Jacky, alone in his room/apartment are very powerful.
Jacky's alienation and rage make us, the viewer both nervous, as though he'll somehow be able to reach through the screen and bring us, kicking and screaming into his brutal world, and sympathetic as we're able to see the reason for this young man's pain.
The Oscar nomination (I've forgotten if it won or not, but if it didn't it should have) was well deserved, and I look forward to great things from this wonderful young actor.
This movie doesn't use explosions, 3D or other tricks to make you watch. But the powerhouse performances and typical Belgium scenery do.
The movie is set in the hormones and veterinarian mob. But the true story at the heart is one of revenge and the impossibility of love. Enter a raw, but true world. An brilliant Belgium movie. It deserves an Oscar.
PS: For Dutch or French viewers some scenes are actually funny because or the stereotypes and linguistic jokes.
Without giving too much away, the story revolves around a rural Belgian family who are in the cattle business. They manage to get caught up in the illegal use of hormones in their animals, the drugs supplied by typically nasty underworld figures.
What really makes this film so riveting is the gripping and harrowing back story involving several of the main characters.
I believe this works as a crime film, drama and even part revenge flick. There is also a doomed love story.
I really hope this film gets a wide release as it certainly deserves it. I look forward to more films from this director.
This the incredibly sad story of Jacky, a farmer who's whole life will be turned upside down following a dramatic and traumatising event in his youth....making him the man (or what's left of it) he is today!
It handles in a very realistic way the animal (cow-bull) drug and hormone maffia and its traffic. Following the lives of several people who are directly affected by it.
The two stories, one the telling of Jacky's way to deal with his trauma and how he suffers from it, how it affected him and the other about the hormone traffic are brilliantly melt together to a story that will leave no one insensitive!!
I do think however the spoken language might be a bit of a barrier for non-Flemish/dutch speakers because I feel that a lot of the words and sentences spoken here add to the drama; translation tends to loose that drama. (I can give a few examples but that would be a spoiler) I predict that this movie will be remade/re shot in English (pity) for a broader audience.
10/10 for me
An extremely well-done film in which everything from the story to the camera shots will compel you to become part of the story, to live the moments with the characters. The film provides opportunities to chuckle at times, and look on in disbelief at others.
As the credits rolled and the theater emptied out, I found myself staring at the screen attempting to take in what I had just experienced. I went in having read reviews about an overall very good film, but those reviews fell short. This is a masterpiece.
Bullhead's Belgium is a place of secrets and shadows. The byzantine plot twists and turns with pain and angst, as law enforcement surveils drug dealers through the use of informants and technology. There is a romantic subplot as we see his adult development choked by his paradoxical being. It's a portrait of a man in a struggle to live within a toxic environment. The protagonist is an anti-hero.
I really liked this one. It's different from standard fare. It shows crime in an unglamorous light. It takes you into a strange world, hidden from the mainstream. It's dramatic and poignant, with a well-constructed plot. It's Friends of Eddie Coyle meets The Incredible Hulk meets The Nothing Man. This one is for Refn fans. Bullhead is recommended viewing.
it depicts a look in the Belgian hormone mafia scene, around the the time when they murdered a federal veterinary inspector.
beware, there are shocking scenes in the movie. and i do mean shocking, not your everyday kind of scenes.
especially if you understand dutch or have some knowledge of the Low Countries.
Having seen Matthias Schoenaerts while not knowing who he was in other films, here he commands the screen, and the intensity of his performance is at times suffocating. Jacky is jacked up on steroids and hormones; we find out that it's not simply for lifting weights in vanity, but because of an unfortunate assault he suffered as a young boy at the hands of an older boy. The tragedy of the accident left Jacky a victim without any repercussions against the perpetrator, and a stunted manhood in more than one way. It also separated him from his good boyhood friend who later turns up as a police informant, and accidentally drops back in on Jacky's life, albeit not by choice. Schoenaerts plays an amazingly subdued role at times, and at others he explodes with the ferocity of a man filled with years of built-up sexual frustration crossed with a system brimming with testosterone. The film itself rests on the portrayal of Jacky, but it is lined with a great story about the hormone mafia he comes in contact with. I found Rundskop to be one of the best and most unique crime films I've seen in awhile; also serving as a fine character study of a deeply emotional situation in a troubled man's life. The ending blew me away. Not only did the plot itself end with great intensity, but the final images of Jacky absolutely enthralled me, and I've since rewound the final scenes over and over again to capture that moment where he absolutely implodes while simultaneously exploding. 10 out of 10. Highly recommend to anyone looking to see a different crime film, and a spectacular breakout performance.
Why is the biggest question for me because this film is better then it's reputation.
This belgian crimedrama introduces the viewer to the illegal use of growth hormones in the beef industry. Jacky Vanmarsenille, the main character, is a beef farmer who together with his family have been doing this for many years, buying hormones from the local mafia.
But is not just the animals who use the hormones, Jacky has been pumping himself with hormones and steroids for many years. He needs it because of a very deep dark family secret, that only he and old friend of his knows about.
When his friend reappears in his life again, Jackys life starts to unravel with tragic results...
Matthias Schoenaerts(Jacky Vanmarsenille) is simply amazing in the main lead, filling his character with a vulnerability seldom seen in crimedramas. Even though he is a muscular, threatening figure, prone to violence, the viewer feels only sympathy for him and his struggle for a decent life.
Jacky Vanmarsenille describes himself as bull, in many ways this film feels like bullfight were Jacky is a Spanish Fighting Bull waiting to meet the matadors sword.
Other fantastic performances in this film includes Jeroen Perceval as his old friend, who plays his Diederik Maes very well, a man filled with regrets and guilt but willing to good.
Jeanne Dandoy as Lucia Schepers not ready to handle the massive rage and lust from Jacky Vanmarsenille.
The sense of dread is everywhere in this film, and viewers expecting an upbeat filmexperience should stay away.
Another great thing about this film is the discussion of growth hormones, chemicals and the abuse of such. Viewers wanting to know more should see documentaries such as Food, Inc. (2008), King Corn (2007)etc.
Rundskop/Bullhead (2011)gives the illegal users a face and tells the story from the users perspective.
Viewers who liked Fingers (1978), Raging Bull (1980), Beautiful Boxer (2004)etc might want to look at this film. It deserves more viewers then some critics claim.
A tough, sometimes horrifyingly violent, but ultimately moving tale about a man caught up in a world of crime and violence. And it began in childhood, which is revealed in some key, difficult flashbacks. All of it is set in Belgium, and is multi-lingual (French and Dutch), and it has a European kind of gangster crime world that is quite different than the Hollywood way of depicting American versions of the same.
These are all strong reasons to watch it. I found myself confused by the many characters because part of the style is to offer a series of different situations, all related, and have the viewer put it together. While this is a million times better than movies that explain too much, there were many times that I was just watching and waiting to see how it would make sense later.
And the acting is so wonderful, and the general style of filming so beautiful without being distracting, you can really get absorbed even without knowing the details of the plot. The leading man in particular is a steroidal, muscled up guy who plays a brute, but who is deeply troubled inside due to a childhood incident. While you never quite are on his side, you come to feel for his situation. The various thugs around him are not always so sympathetic, but all of them are regular guys at heart, and you generally see them as people, not as criminal stereotypes.
In this way, the movie is a little like "The Killing" (a mid-fifties Kubrick film) or "Reservoir Dogs" (the 1990s Tarantino film). While you don't follow a heist step by step, you do get to see the characters behind the crimes as more important than the crimes. There is even a bit of comic relief in "Bullhead" with the pair of car mechanics who bumble just enough to make you laugh.
A great film? Not really, but it has elements that point that way. I think many people will totally love it, the way it's made, the aura of easy realism. Some might find the central childhood trauma a bit excessive (it's really brutal and a bit over the top, but yet believable), and others might see the complicated relationships between criminals, innocents, and cops a bit too fuzzy. But it all has total purpose, and if you give it time it will justify itself, right up to the tense ending.
And this movie is definitely original and unusual, not only just with its premise but also really the way it got shot and how the story got approached, by director Michael R. Roskam. It definitely has its own unique style to it, which is dark and incredibly unsettling, even while the movie itself still features plenty of goofy moments and relieving comedy in it.
The premise sounds so unlikely; a crime movie involving the Belgian hormone mafia. Not exactly the sort of thing you would first think about, when thinking off a tough, straightforward crime movie. But let me tell you that the story plays out just as well as for instance a crime movie involving other drugs, money laundry, or just a bunch of Italians defending their turf. It's really surprising how incredibly effective the story works out and how it can put you on the edge of your seat.
The movie is also being really made special by its characters. These are not some ordinary characters, you are normally accustomed to seeing in a crime movie. No slick looking- and talking characters, just a bunch of rotten looking scoundrels, who are all far from perfect and obviously all have a long and dark, dirty past. The main character himself hardly talks and he is not a pleasant guy, due to the use, or better said misuse, of hormones throughout the years. He is not the sort of guy you would ever want to hang out with, or come across at night on the streets. Yet his character becomes a really involving one, you even start to care for.
That's perhaps the movie its greatest strength. No matter how dirty and ugly the movie turns, you always still feel involved and care for the characters in it. On a dramatic level the movie works really well, because of that and this provides the movie with some at times great and powerful moments.
It really is a movie that works out on so many different levels. It works out great as a crime movie but also really as a drama and even as a still amusing movie. A really great achievement and it's one fine looking movie as well, with a great approach and style to it all.
However, the waters are muddied by various other superfluous plot strands; an investigation into the use of steroids in beef, local gangsters killing cops, low-rent hoodlums selling stolen tyres, a gay police informant who also happens to be a long-lost childhood friend, and a slightly implausible love interest. While any of these ideas may have borne fruit in their own movie, the result here is definitely less than the sum of its parts, not least because the aptly sombre tone of the main story is compromised by the intrusion of these other events.
Michaël R. Roskam is definitely a director to watch, and I suspect Bullhead will become an interesting curiosity to visit in the context of a great director taking his first steps. Ultimately, the weakness here is in the writing. Roskam's next movie was 'The Drop' (with Matthias Schoenaerts again awesome in a supporting role), which was adapted from a short story by Dennis Lehane and, for my money, is an infinitely superior movie, largely because it doesn't suffer from the same cluttered over-plotting. Like Anton Corbijn , tone and emotion are clearly Roskam's forté and I for one am excited to see what he delivers next.
Technical merits for the blu ray are first rate, and the 'making of' piece is watchable, if nothing special.
From the beginning voice-over about the re-surface of some tucked-away secrets, the audience all anticipates the unraveling of the mystery, which turns out to be a frightful child trauma which prompts our protagonist's hormone-injected burly figure. The cobweb of various characters may cause some trouble understanding what is happening, but the intensity of the narrative and a curiosity of the main character keep hold of the film in a sterling form.
Leading actor Matthias Schoenaerts both physically and theatrically embodies himself with a career-defining rendition, intimidating first, then gradually the inner warmth and vulnerability will overcome the visual barriers and a very bald performance of the year. Among the supporting roles, Jeroen Perceval is sneakily versatile as the gay police informer, a witness of the childhood tragedy then.
An 8/10 is commendable, one bug is the crime-blasting tenor has toned down to a nostalgic love-story in the latter part of the film which does kill some sociological heftiness. All the foregrounded felonies have just been retreated to a loose end, but the elevator finale is just so explosive and breathtaking, an instant pathos demonstrates a real cinematic victory.
As one of the five nominees of BEST FOREIGN FILMS, a shocker is BULLHEAD's representative of Belgium instead of THE KID WITH A BIKE (2011) by Dardenne brothers, judging by his first feature's potential, director Michael R. Roskam is on the verge of being enrolled in the mainstream Hollywood ground, let's pray his European traits will not be tainted by the hacks' paradise.
First of all this was a brilliant performance by Mattias Schoenaerts, his character being a man tormented by a childhood trauma that makes him withdrawn and only really relating to the animals on his farm, even through his silence you can feel the agony he goes through because of this being such a good performance by him.
Having lived on farms it is also refreshing to see a good crime film based on the countryside underworld and for it to be accurate as well to various themes of this film.
One of the only downsides to this film is that the flashbacks that occur are scattered about and can cause some confusion if your not paying full attention to the film.
However overall a great watch and it is not a surprise to see it got nominated for best foreign film of the year.
A must see - 9/10
It is this sequence of events forces him to revisit a horrific incident from his childhood 20 years ago, as well as the people who were involved in that pivotal moment of his life. The back-story of Vanmarsenille's anger is revealed in flashbacks to his adolescence, when his life is forever altered. Most films feature a character that must face and overcome, and it is just the opposite in "Bullhead."
Jacky has become expert in the use of hormones over the course of his life. He gobbles pills, stabs himself with needles, and throws punches in the air like De Niro in "Raging Bull" (1980). The sight of Jacky curled in the fetal position in his bathroom, or shadow boxing in front of a window after he has just injected himself with hormones gets a little repetitive, but it's always dramatically shot. These moments also serve as a window to Jacky's true self. His jittery attempts to reconnect with his childhood crush--a vibrant woman named Lucia (Jeanne Dandoy), who now runs a perfume store in the French-speaking part of the country, are truly heartbreaking because he is so clearly uncomfortable in his own skin. Jacky constantly has some type of chemical rushing through his veins, so you never know when he's going to explode. He's dangerous, unstable, and intimidating- yet you can't help but feel sympathy for the guy.
"Bullhead" contains the elements for a simple story of personal tragedy, and yet at times it becomes messy and overbearing. A hazily sketched-out story line involving a dead cop, beef traders, and "the hormone Mafia underworld," with Jacky loosely connected to them all. At the heart of this story is a man and his obsession, and his destructive inner demons, which he has never been able to control. With Schoenaerts' impressive performance, you get the feeling that would be more than enough for this film. Roskam's habit of elliptical storytelling abandons motivational explanations, and the narrative makes the viewer work harder than usual to understand contextual issues. That being said, it is a fine directorial debut for Michaël Roskam, and Matthias Schoenaerts is now no longer under the radar.
As a modern production 'first of a kind' is VERY rare. For the subject matter, may well remain one of a kind, which is almost entirely impossible.
I think to myself, 'Some things just simply are not and never will be OK.' Every living soul will eventually endure that truth, yet most stories and films do there very best to convince us otherwise. Not here.
Bullhead smashes into you with tragic inescapable fates and the secret conditions silently endured.
As a man watching this film, my gut(and loins) recoiled and cramped, begging me away from the screen. My soul demanded me to keep watching. I long after contemplate the 'scenario' Michaël R. Roskam had me endure. Visual excellence, great characters, great performance and humanity.
Say good riddance to characters who come into a plot in one piece, glide though the impossible, somehow 'win' the struggle and go out in that same one piece. Bullhead is much closer to reality; It stays trapped, here, with us, in the meat grinder. .
Watch to see a special violence; A lonely condition suffered in silence, Unstoppable creeping fate. This film beat the crap out of me. Bullhead is a cruel, dead eyed masterpiece... As is all of life.
The secret of storytelling is what to leave out, and the decisions about what to leave to the viewer seem perfect. Time is spent on the emotions of a man rendered incapable of a normal outlet, and how the few people around him compensate.
Matthias Schoenaerts as the protagonist is excellent, but this film owes everything to it's tight direction.
(Language plays quite an important part in the film, and the audience is required to recognise the difference between the two Belgian languages.)