Sint-Truiden, Belgium. The young Limburg cattle farmer Jacky Vanmarsenille (Matthias Schoenaerts), is approached by an unscrupulous veterinarian to make a shady deal with a notorious West-Flemish beef trader. But the assassination of a federal policeman, and an unexpected confrontation with a mysterious secret from Jacky's past, set in motion a chain of events with far-reaching consequences. BULLHEAD is an exciting tragedy about fate, lost innocence and friendship, about crime and punishment, but also about conflicting desires and the irreversibility of a man's destiny.Written by
Matthias Schoenaerts had to cultivate 27 kilograms of muscle mass to apply himself to the role of Jacky Vanmarsenille, he prepped for the role for two years, committing to a diet of 3000 tins of tuna, several hundred chickens and plenty of oats, rice and pasta combined with an exhaustive weight lifting regimen. In addition, he also wore a prosthetic nose. See more »
(around 19:48) Jacky is seen wearing a regular winter jacket when he meets the men. However when they go to lunch, he is then seen wearing a dress sports jacket. See more »
Terrific realism, though the plot pushes too hard at times for sensation
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.
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