REVIEW: Bullhead

16 09 2014

BullheadWhen I sat down to write this review, it had been roughly two months since I sat down and watched “Bullhead.”  Even in spite of the relatively small window – sometimes I’ll shamefully go much longer from viewing to writing – I found that I remembered fairly little about the film.  Perhaps that’s telling as to the kind of film this is: not terrible, but also not particularly memorable.

“Bullhead” does boast a ferocious leading turn by Matthias Schoenarts that makes the film ultimately worthwhile.  Though the Belgian actor has since impressed in films such as “Rust and Bone” and “Blood Ties,” this is by far Schoenarts’ best foot forward.

As Jacky Vanmarsenille, a farmer with masculinity issues abounding due to an unfortunate childhood incident, Schoenarts is a bull with massive pent-up rage he’s trying to unleash.  All he needs is someone to throw a red cape in front of his face.  Yet he performance isn’t all brute force and physicality; director Michael R. Roskam often poignantly captures the brooding soul inside Jacky with close-ups.

Beyond its towering leading performance, however, “Bullhead” struggles to offer little more than the ordinary.  The film has a relatively simple agrarian story that gets convoluted by poor character definition.  Its narrative is also further clouded by unclear ethnic tensions between the Belgians and Flemish, which might be more clear in its native country but came across as confounding to this particular American viewer.

So unless you really love gorgeous establishing shots or feel an insatiable urge to see every Schoenarts performance in case he becomes the next Michael Fassbender, there’s no reason to check out “Bullhead.”  It’s not entirely bull—- (think of the most common phrase involving the word bull), but Roskam certainly misses the bullseye.  B-2stars


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