Bullhead (Rundskop) – Art 4/5 Ent 2/5 Worth 5/5
Bullhead is a beautifully-shot low key crime story, and a sharp tragedy for a man dealt a rotten set of cards. Set in two Flemish (Dutch-speaking) regions of Belgium, West Flanders and the shockingly verdant Limburg, the film traces the souring of a deal where drugs are hidden in cattle beef injections, and the lead character’s past (played by Matthias Schoenaerts) catches up with him and begins to rattle his core. Bullhead is the debut feature-length film from director Michael Roskam, whose previous experience was with shorts. While opinion is divided but mostly positive on Belgium’s moody selection for the Academy’s Best Foreign category, almost everyone speaks with one voice as to the Nykvistesque cinematography by Nicolas Karakatsanis and the mesmerizing loose cannon performance by Schoenaerts.
Because the lead character, Jacky, suffered as a young boy a heinous mutilation of his nutsack at the hands of a deranged perverted older kid who looks like a rapist mongtard, he’s cursed for life with both the physical suffering of testosterone injection dependence and the psychological suffering of tantalizing sexual impossibility. In overcompensating with a hypermasculine brutality, enhancing his sex appeal, it only rings out his soul even worse. At a meeting with a West Flanders kingpin, Jacky is forced by raw impulse to bolt from the room when they start jabbering about whores. Later, at a diner with shapely young women, people watching becomes torture. He sublimates nature’s cock block by beating the shit out of other people. There’s a close relationship between the drugs he’s reliant on for his preternatural masculinity, and the drugs he imports for his cattle. As well, he’s known for having “the head of a bull” and ramming other people with it while in his roid rages.
When his childhood friend who was witness to the attack walks back into his life, his paper thin tapestry unfolds and he’s flushed with uncontrollable obsessions over the mobbed-up family that wrong him: both the kid who smashed his balls and the gangster father who brushed it off as an “accident”. Jacky’s tempestuous drive goes looking for revenge, but is mollified by his assailant’s bubbly sister, who herself threatens to triple her family’s assault by denying him revenge by frustrating and confusing his eternally juvenile yet animalistic drive. And then there’s the drug deal and the cops closing in on him …
The film is sort of caught in the middle between a gangster flick and a noir, and concentrates predominantly on the psychological drama of a deeply disturbed, and cursed man. Aside from the dark undertones, this movie makes me want to take a Belgian beer tour, more than In Bruges at least.