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North american Premiere

  • Drama / Crime / Thriller
  • /
  • Belgium / Netherlands
  • /
  • 2011
  • /
  • 129 min
  • /
  • video
  • /
  • Flemish/french with English subtitles
Bullhead Bullhead Bullhead

WINNER: Jury Award, Critic's Prize, Beaune International Thriller Film Festival 2011
Official Selection, Berlin International Film Festival 2011

Screening Times

“Disturbingly visceral... a violent and complex work” — Fionnuala Halligan, SCREEN DAILY


Director: Michaël R. Roskam
Screenplay: Michaël R. Roskam
Cast: Matthias Schoenaerts, Jeroen Perceval, Jeanne Dandoy, Barbara Sarafian, Frank Lammers
Producers: Bart Van Langendonck
Print Source: Celluloid Dreams



A cattle farmer in the Flanders region of Belgium, Jacky Vanmarsenille (Matthias Schoenaerts) grew up in a dodgy clan that was never above juicing their cows with illegal hormones. Today, Jacky’s in the habit of pumping himself full of testosterone and other substances, to build up his bulk to match that of a bull. He cuts an intimidating figure, and doesn’t hesitate to use it. The big picture, and big is the operative word, is that one would be wise not to piss Jacky off. A cold-eyed colossus, he’s the perfect candidate for inclusion in a cabal involving a sleazy veterinarian, a meat-merchant gangster and a brand-new hormone that promises to boost agricultural profits handsomely. However, the murder of a policeman investigating the local underworld puts Jacky in a tight spot and an unexpected reunion with his childhood friend Diederik (Jeroen Perceval) dredges up painful memories from 20 years past. There’s also Lucia (Jeanne Dandoy), a woman Jacky has long carried a torch for, who’s also linked to the events that still torture him today. Driven with ferocity by the chemicals surging inside him, Jacky rarely makes the right choices, but he will rip into a terrifying rage.

At once harder than steel and surprisingly sensitive, BULLHEAD will get inside you and do some damage. Writer/director Michaël Roskam’s first feature film capably mixes elements of multiple genres with a sturdily dramatic premise, punctuating it with moments of sarcastic humour. While that streak of disarming self-mockery, centered around a pair of risible Walloon mechanics with a strong dislike of the Flemish, BULLHEAD remains a dark and dramatic suspense film anchored in reality, revealing the hyper-masculine world of backwoods crime culture and shattering the myths of brute machismo by way of the characters Jacky and Diederik. The film’s cornerstone is Jacky, an monster of a man whose meaty muscles mask the deep physical and emotional wounds of his past. Rising European star Matthias Schoenaerts (THE PACK) underwent a radical physical transformation for this film and delivers a first-rate performance expressing the duality of his character, equally aggressive and vulnerable. Worth a mention is the excellent direction of photography, making the most of the film’s characters and capturing the Belgian countryside in a manner both aesthetic and symbolic. Truly, BULLHEAD is cinema writ large.

—Nicolas Archambault

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