Bullhead [Rundskop] Movie Review

Matthias Schoenaerts Alerts

Dark and involving, this shocking Belgian drama not only earned an Oscar nomination but propelled its director and leading man into much bigger movies. And deservedly so. With a strikingly internalised approach to a shattering story, writer-director Roskam gets deep under the surface. He also somehow manages to address a seriously important issue without ever getting preachy about it. And while the film focusses on lead actor Schoenaerts, it's absolutely riveting.

Set in Belgium's cattle country, the story centres on Jacky (Schoenaerts), a beefy young guy who runs his family farm and seems to inject as many muscle-building hormones into himself as his cattle. But there's a secret reason for this, dating back two decades to a grisly incident he is suddenly forced to confront when his long-lost childhood friend Diederick (Perceval) turns up to negotiate with a rival gang leader (Louwyck). The doping gangs are nervous about two detectives (Vandenborre and Sarafian) who are investigating the murder of an undercover drug-enforcement agent. And with his memory sparked, Jacky looks up Lucia (Dandoy), a woman from his past.

When Jacky is on-screen we are completely engaged. Schoenaerts plays him as a likeable hulk, fiercely intelligent even though he's uneducated, with a gentle manner that's being undermined by too many hormones. So he sometimes loses his ability to cope, lashing out with horrific violence in ways that worry him as much as us. We could watch him all day, but Roskam has a bigger story to tell, cutting away from Jacky to explore the war between drug gangs, the authorities and the capitalists who insist that long-established farms increase their productivity regardless of whether this means breaking the law.

As the story progresses, Jacky becomes a pawn rather than the protagonist, which is a bit frustrating for us as viewers. But even if it misses a strong emotional kick, the story is intense and gripping, and we yearn for our dangerously flawed hero to find the happy ending that has eluded him all his life. Meanwhile, the actor and filmmaker have both found their happy endings: on the back of this film, Schoenaerts went on to star opposite Marion Cotillard in the acclaimed Rust and Bone and has a series of even bigger roles in the pipeline, while Roskam is now directing Tom Hardy and Noomi Rapace in Animal Rescue

Rich Cline

Cast & Crew

Director : Michael R. Roskam

Producer : Bart Van Langendonck

Starring : , Jeroen Perceval, Jeanne Dandoy, Tibo Vandenborre, , Frank Lamers, Sam Louwyck, Erico Salamone

Matthias Schoenaerts Alerts


Bullhead [Rundskop] Rating

" Excellent "

Rating: 15, 2011


More Matthias Schoenaerts

The Drop Movie Review

A slow-burning intensity sets this crime thriller apart from the crowd, directed by Belgian filmmaker Michael Roskam with a sharp focus on flawed characters who...

Blood Ties Movie Review

While the story centres on twisted moral dilemmas, this 1970s-set thriller takes such a hesitant, internalised approach that if never lets viewers under the characters'...

The Drop Trailer

Bob Saginowski works behind the bar at Cousin Marv's in Brooklyn - an establishment often referred to by local criminals as a 'drop bar'. It's...

Blood Ties Trailer

Frank is a remarkable cop with a lot to look forward to in his life, but as happy as he is, he still has major...


Bullhead [Rundskop] Movie Review

Dark and involving, this shocking Belgian drama not only earned an Oscar nomination but propelled its director and leading man into much bigger movies. And...

Marion Cotillard Shines in Rust and Bone

French film Rust and Bone opens in the USA tomorrow (23rd Nov. 2012). Let's find out whether it's worth spending a couple of hours on...

Rust and Bone Takes The Spotlight At The AFI Festival

Rust and Bone star Marion Cotillard is all smiles at the AFI FestivalWe're big fans of it here at Contact Music, so it was pleasing...

Rust and Bone [De Rouille et d'Os] Movie Review

Marion Cotillard delivers another raw, devastating performance in this beautifully made drama about two badly damaged people who adapt to a new life together. After...