Michaël R. Roskam’s film wastes no time introducing us to modern Belgian dairy farmers, whose matter-of-fact usage of growth hormones for their cows is matched only by their acquiescence to the gangsters who control this drug trade. A turf war inadvertently causes two men to meet for the first time in twenty years; this in turn prompts a flashback to explain how an incident in their boyhood changed their lives forever.
I am deliberately leaving out details so that you can experience the full impact of the story yourself. The leading character, a bull-like figure played by Matthias Schoenaerts, is caught between reminders of his painful past and a bleak outlook on the future. He knows that the stage is being set for a showdown and it isn’t going to be pretty.
Because the story’s climax is as inevitable as a Greek tragedy, Bullhead loses some of its dramatic momentum in the last act. But there is no question of its potency or originality; this is no ordinary crime yarn. The only remaining question is whether or not you’re prepared to spend two hours with such an uninviting (but not uninteresting) cast of characters. Hope is nowhere in sight, only misery.