Thursday, February 23, 2012

Bullhead (Rhoades)

Angry “Bullhead”
Up for Award

Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades

Traveling recently in farm country, I ate dinner at an off-the-beaten-path restaurant whose menu promised only to serve organic, hormone-free beef. That brought to mind a Belgian movie I’d recently seen about a cattle farmer who gets involved with the “hormone mafia,” a gang that traffics in bovine hormones, forcing cows to mature in eight weeks instead of 10.
Can’t be good for either the cow or a steak dinner.
This film called “Bullhead” has been nominated as Best Foreign Language Picture in tonight’s Academy Awards. It’s currently playing at the Tropic Cinema.
A sometimes painful-to-watch film, “Bullhead” was written and directed by Michael R. Roskam. His first feature film, he seems to be making the point that innocent people can be turned into confused, angry animals.
Not always delivering a coherent plotline, “Bullhead” is mostly a character study of Jacky, the bulked-up cattleman who gets involved in the shady world of chemically enhanced cattle farming.
With his oversized muscles and continual steroid injections, Jacky (as played by Matthias Schoenaerts) seems a candidate for ’roid rage. But inside he’s a scared, frightened man.
One scene that shows a baby calf trembling in a tub after a caesarian birth mirrors Jacky’s huddling in a bathtub, knees drawn up in a fetal position, after injecting himself again with steroids.
When the thugs kill an undercover cop, Jacky is trigger to go looking for those people who damaged him in his youth, setting him off on a testosterone-driven spree.
The criminal subplot is merely an excuse for pulling Jacky out of his sad shell and forcing him to face up to his past. It raises the question of what makes a man. And the answer certainly isn’t chemical.

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