Bullhead - Blu-ray Review

'another attempt by this century's film-makers to understand and interpret the state of masculinity'

Wearing its ideas on its sleeve, it does not take a huge stretch to read Bullhead as another attempt by this century's film-makers to understand and interpret the state of masculinity. Matthias Schoenaerts, an imposing presence at the centre of this film, as he was in Rust And Bone, hulks around, throwing shadow punches in his bathroom, as he attempts to fill a physical gap which you feel represents much more of an ideological one for writer/director MichaĆ«l R. Roskam.

That element of the film feels by far Bullhead's weakest, as Jacky (Schoenaerts) corrects a physical problem caused by a childhood assault with a multitude of drugs. Whilst the plotting poses interesting questions for Jacky, Roskam struggles to pitch his idea into his story in clear lines. Is Jacky's injury a weakness to be corrected? Or is it rather an excuse for him to become more man than those around him? Does it belittle him or make him stronger? Roskam not making himself clear on this element isn't the problem, the problem is that the answer has an impact on what the film as a whole has to say and not settling on an answer leaves Bullhead a little confused when it comes to its pitch on the state of masculinity.

Arguably that pitch is more interesting when it focuses on Diederik (Jeroen Perceval) than when Jacky gets centre stage. Homosexual in a very heterosexual world, Diederik is also pinned between a female boss and a tempestuous relationship with Jacky. Whilst the latter gets to externalise his problems in interactions with other characters and the time Roskam gives him alone, Perceval is left to internalise his problems to good effect.

In the background to this a local gangster narrative develops and Roskam shows good storytelling prowess to ensure it doesn't takeover Jacky's story. In other hands this would be a much less interesting film about the dodgy deals taking place in the Flanders countryside, but instead those deals enable the masculine narrative, rather than overrun it.

It's just a shame that, ultimately, the director can't steer his story quite masterfully enough for it to find a definitive direction. It's certainly bullish, and full of ideas, but the conclusions are lacking at least partially and the focus wavers on occasion. Both impact the message, which is a problem for a film that exists to deliver it.

By Sam Turner. Sam is editor of Film Intel, and can usually be found behind a keyboard with a cup of tea. He likes entertaining films and dislikes the other kind. He's on , Twitter and several places even he doesn't yet know about.

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