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ELIZABETH LOPEZ' REVIEW
RATING: B+

Drafthouse Films acquired the Belgium produced ‘BULLHEAD’ (2011), after its US Premiere in Austin at Fantastic Fest. Aside from screening last fall for many local and international attendees at Fantasic Fest, the award-winning ‘Bullhead’ was a selection for over 40 film festivals around the world. It is among sixty-three submissions for the Best Foreign Language Film category at the 84th Academy Awards® and it is now a contender for the coveted Oscar.

Michaël Roskam wrote the original screenplay as well as directs the Dutch/French (English subtitled) thriller. Among the many awards Roskan has received are the Best First Feature (Fantasia IFF); Best Film, Director & Debut (Flemish Film Awards) and the Audience Award, Critic’s Prize (AFI Fest). Roskam studied painting and contemporary art and in 2005 earned a master degree in script writing and development. After directing several award winning short films on an international level, ‘Bullhead,’ is his debut feature film, set in his home town of Sint-Truiden.

Roskam tells of cattle farming in Belgium from the 1980s to the present. Jacky Vanmarsenille (Mattias Schoenaerts) works in his father’s business as a domineering cattle farmer, both in character and stature. The filmmaker does not lay out Jacky’s life story from A to Z; the viewer slowly discovers what drives him to be constantly pumping himself on steroids and hormones. Nicolas Karakatsanis, the Director of Photography, does an excellent job of capturing the character’s strength, as well as scenes that inform the viewer of deeply rooted turmoil within.

Watching the tale of Jacky’s life evolve is not an easy one; not as a child, nor as an adult as his life circles back to connections with a woman and friends from his past. Jacky must make decisions in his work and personal life; many will have heavy consequences.

The cattle business, just like many others, can lead to shady dealing and who is going to get the most out of everything bought, sold or traded. As a businessman who wants to stay in the game, Jacky has learned to deal with notorious meat traders and keep it underground. Federal agents investigate the cattle business and when one goes down, life on the farm is not the same.

The film’s cast includes Jeroen Perceval, Barbara Sarafian, Jeanne Dandoy, Tibo Vandenbore and Sam Louwyck, among others who bring this marvelous script to life. Although the film is 126 minutes long, it may seem a bit longer as the story unfolds. There is nothing to be bored about in this engaging story.

Despite the R rating for so much violence, it is hard not to come out of the theater without feeling so much emotion for the main character. The final, quiet scene just pierces through and deep. Mattias Schoenaerts does an outstanding job in his performance. It is a must see!

‘Bullhead’ opens February 17, 2012 in New York City, Los Angeles and Austin right on time to see it before the awards show the latter part of the month.


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