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  • Writer's pictureJames Rutherford

'Bullhead': The Vigorous Tale of a Cattle Farmer Drawn into Belgium's Mafia Underworld

Movie poster for the 2011 Belgian film Bullhead (Rundskop)

Bullhead (Rundskop) (2011) is a highly compelling Belgian crime thriller starring Matthias Schoenaerts as Jacky, a cattle farmer drawn into illicit opportunity within Belgium's mafia underworld. A sullen and burly ruffian addicted to routine testosterone injections, Jacky embraces the opportunity to turn profit in the Flemish black market for illegal growth hormone distribution.

Jacky's veterinarian arranges a meeting with a West Flanders mafia boss named Marc (Sam Louwyck) and his associate Diederik (Jeroen Perceval), only for Jacky to recognize Diederik as a childhood friend. In flashback, the storyline details an incident from Jacky's childhood that indirectly involves Diederik—a catastrophic assault that has left Jacky forever impaired. In the present, Jacky makes an attempt to romantically engage a young woman named Lucia (Jeanne Dandoy) while the police simultaneously investigate him for the murder of a police detective—his entangled affairs culminating in dire mortal consequence.

Written and directed by Belgian filmmaker Michaël R. Roskam (The Drop, Racer and the Jailbird), Bullhead is an arresting tale of dissonance and psychological torment. Roskam delivers a brutish character study of a strongman beset by haunting reminders of his past and his own physical limitations, with Schoenaerts shining as the rugged anti-hero at the center of it all. Steeped in melancholy and abetted by superb cinematography courtesy of Nicolas Karakatsanis, it's a dark and absorbing foray into the upper echelon of modern European cinema.


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