Inside Out 2012: ‘Bullhead’ is a raging bull of a picture

- Advertisement -


Bullhead

Written and Directed by Michael R. Roskam

Belgium, 2011

In French, it translates to, “me parlez-vous?”

In Dutch, it’s “spreekt u aan me?”

Set in Belgium, with dialogue in Dutch and French, Michael R. Roskam’s Bullhead is a taut, uncompromising character study and organized crime thriller that masterfully translates Scorsese’s magnum opus quote, ‘are you talking to me?’

The film stars Mattias Schoenaerts as Jacky Vanmarsenille, a steroid addicted cattle rancher working on his family farm. One day, an unscrupulous veterinarian approaches Jacky to do business with a notorious beef trader, but following the assassination of a federal policeman, a Pandora’s box of suppressed memories is released within him, causing Jacky to kick off a series of unavailing exploits that suffer unto him untold consequences.

Like an archetypal Martin Scorsese film, Bullhead is a study of unlikeable and fatally flawed characters. But with ample amount of grace and dexterity, Roskam turns our disgust into intrigue, making us understand, if not care for, the film’s schismatic protagonist.

In the beginning, Jacky is nothing more than a bully. A towering hulk of a man, Jacky uses his synthetic strength and brutishness to intimidate others into compromising.

However, the film, and Jacky himself, is much more multifaceted. As we delve into his back-story, we come across Jacky’s childhood, and when we see the deeply disturbing and traumatic event that led to his abusive steroid use, we are unquestionably sympathetic.

Without spoiling too much, Jacky’s use of steroids is a metaphor for what it means to be man and how masculinity is defined. The tragedy left him unable to develop in the same way as others, so he must use drugs to artificially compensate. This causes us to consider.

By using steroids, Jacky has, indeed, developed into what we would consider masculine. Authoritative, controlling, and with a body like Bronson, Jacky fits into the Hercules mold, but underneath all the superficial affectations, he lacks the one (or two) aspect that truly make him a man.

This makes us rethink the definition of masculinity from something that is socially contrived and outwardly projected, to something that is naturally inherent and self-understood.

From there, we are pulled back into Jacky’s criminal underworld. Although this section of the film is not as equally strong as the previous, the character study seamlessly carries over, allowing us to understand Jacky’s actions by cultivating our knowledge of his history.

Like the cattle, Jacky is injected with growth hormones in order to be useful. For the cows, its to be sold for meat, and for him, its very much the same. His only usefulness is to be savage and burly, and as such, he’s appropriately treated like a commodity. He’s seen by his physique, not his psyche, which reinforces the film original notion of identity and masculinity being an introverted quality, not extroverted.

Deeply fascinating and endlessly engaging, Jacky’s character analysis is almost as gripping as Robert De Niro’s in Taxi Driver. In fact, the scenes where Jacky is shadowboxing closely mirrors the infamous scene of Travis Bickle pontificating with a gun in front of a mirror, and Jacky’s obsession with a woman is reminiscent to Bickle’s infatuation with Cybill Shepherd’s character.

However, the crime thriller is often subservient to the one-man show, and at times, it almost becomes unnecessary. Despite this, the film still succeeds in large part to Schoenaerts’ brilliantly tortured performance, making Bullhead a picture worth talking about. Just don’t ask Schoenaerts about it.

– Justin Li

Visit the official website for Inside Out





10 Different Types of Financial Aid
Top 10 Richest American Idols
V-Moda Crossfade Wireless
The 5 Most Expensive Wireless Headphones: Ultimate Auditory Clarity
Business man watching business go bankrupt
25 Iconic Companies that Filed for Bankruptcy
20 Different Types of Balloons
12 Different Types of Tubas (Plus Interesting Facts)
Minivan loaded with beach stuff for day at the beach
The Ultimate Beach Checklist When Taking Young Kids to the Beach
Boy playing a trombone
10 Different Types of Trombones (Plus Fun Facts)
28 Different Types of Pineapple
20 Different Types of Limes
Table with a variety of nuts in bowls
20 Most Popular Types of Nuts (with Nutrition Fact Charts)
Bowl of cooked broccoli with walnuts
20 Types of Broccoli
Motorhome on highway going through Bryce Canyon in the USA
13 Types of RV’s (Recreational Vehicles) for All Kinds of Vacation Fun
Mechanic working on car in garage
10 Gift Ideas for Mechanics (Under $20, $50, $100 and $200)
A mechanic is repairing a car brake.
5 Different Types of Brake Pads and 6 Different Types of Brakes
9 Cool Minivan Alternatives
15 Awesome Alternatives to Skateboards (Plus Interesting Facts)
Baseball player hitting ball
10 Types of Baseball Bats that Rip the Leather Off the Ball
16 Types of Barbells for All Types of Lifts and Workouts
Basketball player slam dunking
29 Great Gift Ideas for Basketball Players (Under $20, $50, $100 and $200)
Inside a beautiful spa business
6 Capabilities the Best Spa Scheduling and Business Software Should Have
Ballet dancers in a dance studio
7 Features of the Best Dance Studio Business Software (Checklist)
Massage therapy clinic
7 Types of Massage Therapist Software for Growing the Business
10 Features the Best Hair Salon Scheduling Business Software Offer (Checklist)
Natural herbal vitamins.
10 of the Best Online Vitamin Stores
>