'Bullhead' is one of those films that you will either love or hate. Not to do with the acting, perhaps to do with the subtitles, but moreover to do with the fact that it is a long, dark, foreign indie film that doesn't stray too far from the path of cow farming and the mafia that can sometimes go with that.
But, to miss out on viewing this masterpiece, to not witness what has to be one of the most incredible, passionately heartbreaking, violently stoic movies of the past decade is to have let something breathtaking avoid your gaze.
The film opens with a spoken warning that, basically, things long since buried have a way to still come back and bite you in the ass! Our lead actor, a domineering brute of a cattle farmer Jacky Vanmarsenille (played by a pumped-up-for-the-role Mattias Schoenaerts) is hooked on all manner of drugs. Why, we don't know quite yet, but nevertheless he is a force to be reckoned with - for others and himself. It turns out he is using Androstederm to fatten his cows. It fattens the animals in 8 weeks, not 10 weeks and after injected half an hour later is out of their system. It also adds 10% fat to their body weight! Jacky also uses it in small doses.
It turns out that in Belgium there is such a thing as the Hormone Mafia Underworld, which deals in such acts as this with other farmers. But why is Jacky so angry when he makes all this money, well, that is shown in a 20 year flashback to being a young boy; and the cruel, painful victim of a mentally-challenged older boy. An act that went unpunished at the time, it changed Jacky's life forever and put him instantly on the path of self-destruction.
Having taken growth hormones since being a little boy, we see how he views women, sex, gives out beatings and keeps injecting himself day in day out. His harrowing ordeal back all those years ago is hard, so very tough to watch (as a man), but suddenly explains everything as we progress.
His young friend at the time, Dieterick is now a distant adult friend of his, but out of nowhere he finds out that when he goes to do a new cow drugging deal, there is his old friend - worryingly involved in the whole thing. Now he's taking more, just to get by. Such high profile drugs as Sustanon, Mestanolone and Methyltestosterone which is making him think less and act more (hence the title of the film).
There are brutal scenes of a nightclub beating, a REAL cow gets cut open and has her calf removed (you simply couldn't fake that, for as the knife cuts the cow moans and flinches), and soon Jacky is visiting the long-lost never-had woman he could have had in his life. And so, as we get to the finale of this incredible film, Jacky is ploughed on as many drugs as he can inject and digest and takes on the world in one last stand.
The director, in the special features behind-the-scenes tells the young boy who plays the Young Dieterick in the flim that Jacky's spirit will come back and inherit the body of him in 'Bullhead 2.' The boy never flinches and says, "I'll still be playing the role, yes?" To which the director sarcastically responds with, Yes, ... but ten years from now!" We can only hope. We can only hope.