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Bullhead (Blu-ray Review)

When Oscar time came around there was much buzz about a film with a peculiar name called Bullhead. It was nominated for Best Foreign Language Film, but lost to something else that I can’t remember. Soon after the Oscar nomination, or was it during, nevermind, an amazing poster was created by the folks over at Mondo (pictured below for the dual Blu-ray cover art) a man that looked to be part bull. It’s an awesome design, by the way. Well, these posters sold out instantly, so there was that buzz that it had going for it. Next up was me watching the trailer and thinking that it was a Fight Club knock-off of some kind. Man, was I ever wrong. I’m going to go ahead and say it right now: Bullhead is a masterpiece of a film. It may be a masterpiece, but will the Blu-ray live up to the film itself? Keep reading.  

Film  

Bullhead is the Academy Award Nominee for Best Foreign Language Film that marks the international debut of writer/director Michael P. Roskam, which stars Matthias Schoenaerts. Jacky Vanmarsenille (Mathias Schoenaerts) is a cattle farmer who has started on some shady dealings with a local crime boss and meat trader. There’s drama involved when a federal agent is murdered and all fingers point to several of the individuals involved in the meat trading industry that also deal with Jacky. Jacky has a good head on his shoulders when it comes down to business, but also has an animal instinct that is fueled by his abuse of steroids and growth hormones. Jacky is always in a state of perpetual “roid-rage.”

This bothers some of his associates, because they think he’s off his cuff and may bring unneeded attention to their dealings. That and Jacky doesn’t trust so easily when it comes to new business partners. On his downtime he preps his cattle by injecting them with growth hormones and other drugs to plump them up so as to sell them for higher prices. In between his sessions he can be found in the solace of his bathroom that has been converted, for the most part, into a sanctuary. He has a mini-fridge with all of his many, MANY drugs and supplements. He meditates in a bathtub and trains by shadow boxing. He’s a tower.

Now comes the tricky part in which I don’t tell you anything about why Jacky is such a messed up human being. Maybe it was his environment, or his messed up family life? That’s possible. Let’s just say that something so catastrophic happened to Jacky as a boy that from then on it affected his whole way of living and interacting with people. His self esteem is non-existent. It’s due to this trauma that he has built himself into this juggernaut of a “man-bull,” so to speak.  Even his facial features (thanks to the augmentation of some really good prosthetic make-up effects) make him look like a bull. he also has great aim when he headbutts people in the face. Yes, keep in mind that Bullhead is a gangster film that chronicles the sordid dealings of the illegal meat trade. They’re all “meat dealers” and the police are after them.

Bullhead is such a tour-de-force of a film that hits all the proper dramatic notes at all the right times. It focuses primarily on Jacky himself, but zig-zags a bit in introducing other characters from his past that will have an effect on his future. What also separates the film from the norm is that Jacky is technically “the bad guy,” but is also the good guy. We want him to succeed in his ventures and interactions and whatnot. I guess he’s a hybrid of protagonist/antagonist. Yeah, I know, I just used expensive “film school” words. Don’t get used it. 😉

In retrospect I should have sought the film out due to the positive rumblings I had heard about it. In fact if I had seen it in theaters it would totally have been on my top-10 list of best films of 2011. Well, at least we have the Blu-ray, so no use crying over spilled milk. I implore you to seek out Bullhead so that you too may take the journey into darkness. You think you have it bad? I laugh in your general direction. Talk to my boy Jacky Vanmarsenille and see what bad really is. Props to Michael P. Roskam and super-duper props to Matthias Schoenaerts for a great performance. You guys are big time now!

Bullhead is a masterpiece.

Video

Bullhead is presented in 1080p, 2.35:1 widescreen. The presentation has a very warm glow to the film especially in the low-lit scenes, and I am a big fan of low light, but there’s more than the usual amount of softness in those scenes and in the overall presentation of the film itself. It doesn’t look bad, but when I began watching it that was the first thing that stuck out. Granted, the picture may be soft, but the detail in the facial features, surroundings, textures, are still sharp as can be. Edge enhancement is not a problem and the color palette is quite subdued when on the farm, but gets bold during the outer scenes not taking place at said farm. Here’s hoping Drafthouse Films continues the trend in excellence in video quality.

Audio

Bullhead is presented in DTS-HD MA 5.1 lossless surround sound. Bullhead, at first sight (sound), doesn’t seem like it would be one to garner such a high score for audio quality, but there are a couple of scenes where it just goes off in terms of sound quality. There’s a nightclub scene where the music just sounds amazing and really pulls you into the madness. Dialogue is crystal clear and the music score makes itself throughout the speakers effortlessly. Keep in mind that Bullhead is a dialogue driven film, so these instances of “bombast” are spread out. Again, it’s a great lossless soundtrack.

Extras

Give the fans what they want and thou shall be rewarded with a high score. Bullhead features an audio commentary writer/director Michael P. Roskam, a seperate interview with him along with star Matthias Schoenaerts. Matthias describes what he went through to in bringing this force of nature to the big screen and damn it if I didn’t get flashbacks to Christian Bale in The Machinist, Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight, and Tom Hardy in Bronson. Sacrifice and dedication and it shows as Matthias describes how he had to live that character for a very long time and how it took longer for him to “snap out of it.” There’s a making-of featurette, trailer, 16-page booklet, and the icing on the cake is the short film The One Thing To Do written and directed by Michael P. Roskam and starring Matthias Schoenaerts

  • The Making of Bullhead (HD)
  • Audio Commentary by Michael P. Roskam
  • Interview with Director Michael P. Roskam (HD)
  • Interview with Star Matthias Schoenaerts (HD)
  • The One Thing To Do: Roskam’s 2005 short film starring Matthias Schoenaerts (SD)
  • Theatrical Trailer (HD)
  • 16-page booklet featuring introduction by Director Michael Mann

Summary

Bullhead is definitely not the feel-good-movie of year, but it’s a phenomenal character study of a man who got a raw deal in life. Yes, he’s a bad man, but would he be a bad man if he wasn’t a victim of circumstance? That’s left for the viewer to decide. It’s a great film, but it isn’t one of those that you will go back to to revisit anytime soon due to the heavy subject matter. I’ve read that Bullhead is the new international Taxi Driver, and I would say that that’s a fair assessment. The direction, writing, and acting are all top notch and deserve all the accolades it will receive from future fans of the film. Highly recommended!

 

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Gerard Iribe is a writer/reviewer for Why So Blu?. He has also reviewed for other sites like DVD Talk, Project-Blu, and CHUD, but Why So Blu? is where the heart is. You can follow his incoherency on Twitter: @giribe

1 Response to “Bullhead (Blu-ray Review)”


  1. Aaron Neuwirth

    Really solid flick.