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Tuesday, June 26, 2012
Some strong violence, language an sexual content
Matthias Schoenaerts, Jeroen Perceval, Jeanne Dandoy, Barbara Sarafian, Tibo Vandenborre, Frank Lammers, Sam Louwyck, Robin Valvekens, Baudoin Wolwertz, David Murgia, Erico Salamone, Philippe Grand'Henry
Michael R. Roskam
Michael R. Roskam
Domineering cattle farmer Jacky Vanmarsenille (Matthias Schoenaerts in a ferocious breakout performance), constantly pumped on steroids and hormones, initiates a shady deal with a notorious mafioso meat trader. When an investigating federal agent is assassinated and a woman from his traumatic past resurfaces, Jacky must confront his demons and face the far-reaching consequences of his decisions.
Bullhead (2012) | Review
The Fragile Masculinity Of A Gangster
Bullhead is set in Brussels, and tells the story of Jacky Vanmarsenille (Matthias Schoenaerts), a cattle farmer and black market hormone dealer. Jacky uses illegal hormones to create the best cattle for sale, and intimidates and bullies anyone who thinks about buying their cattle from anyone else in the region. Jacky is the focus of the film and is himself a user of steroids and hormones. As we follow Jacky down the dark road of his criminal dealings, we also travel back into the past to see the shocking reasons why he is such a driven, awkward, and domineering force in this peculiar criminal underworld.
Jacky is a fascinating portrait of masculinity and Bullhead studies gender roles within the criminal underworld and even in rural communities. Outwardly, Jacky plays the stoic, aggressive gangster that all of our imaginations can conjure up quickly. But inwardly, Jacky is burdened with a mysterious conflict. And his personal use of steroids has a hidden and complex facet to it. How can one man be so confidently aggressive in his business dealings and so shy and conflicted in his interpersonal relationships?
Bullhead is another film where it is impossible to discuss the spirituality of the film without delving deeply into spoiler territory. If you haven't seen the film yet, I'd recommend it for any lovers of crime films or European gangster tales, or even intimate character studies. I would also recommend not reading any further.
For those who have already seen Bullhead or are on the fence about it, the central conceit on display is the fact that Jacky experiences a traumatic event as a young man in which he is attacked by a mentally ill boy and his testicles are damaged beyond repair. Before he has even hit puberty, Jacky's normal, adult-male life is robbed from him. He depends on the hormones to grow him into a properly mature male. But at some point the steroids and the isolation overtake him and Jacky becomes consumed with his own version of masculinity in order to hide the embarrassing truth from his peers.
What complicates matters to the breaking point is that Jacky has initiated a relationship with the grown sister of the boy who attacked him in his youth. The pressures of his criminal dealings are caving in around him even as he tries for the first time to really love a woman. Jacky's dark heart has already won out, but the dramatic weight of Bullhead is watching to see if his gentler soul can emerge as the victorious half of his broken nature.
Bullhead tells a fascinating and unique tale. It also backs that tale up with staggering craft. The script is efficient and fairly flawless. The cinematography is bold. This is a staggering work from Director Michael R. Roskam.
Drafthouse Films are the distributors of Bullhead, and I am pretty unapologetically pulling for this new distribution company. They are an off shoot of the Alamo Drafthouse, which is the greatest chain of movie theaters on earth. Just last week they released a Blu-ray of The FP, and they pretty much roar out of the gate with Bullhead and its Academy Award nomination!
Bullhead is treated like the internationally recognized film that it is, here. You'll get an essay in the liner notes from Director Michael Mann, a director's commentary, a beautiful hi-def cut of the film itself, and behind the scenes bonus features, too.
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