Although it takes place in the murky and ugly world of beef cattle raised with illegal growth hormones, Bullhead (Rundskop) is really a tale of two men of about 30 who are thrown back together many years after a gruesome childhood incident that scarred them both. Actor Matthias Schoenaerts portrays Jacky Vanmarsenille, a brooding bully who can’t stop shooting himself up with testosterone. Eventually we learn that there’s a good reason why he does so.
Rural Belgium may not seem like a proper setting for a story about organized crime, but where there’s money to be made, there are shady people to make it. If cattle can be brought to slaughter size in eight weeks instead of ten, enter the hormone mafia. Jacky is a cattle farmer whose veterinarian partner introduces him to a meat deal that Jacky correctly perceives is bad business. One of the lower principals on the other side turns out to be Diederik, his best friend from childhood, who was there when an insane older boy literally crushed Jacky’s future manhood.
As the movie progresses, the criminal story fades into the background and the plot concentrates instead on Jacky’s attempt to come to terms not just with Diederik, but with the bully from his past and the demons his childhood trauma activated.
I am not normally a fan of stories with violent anti-heroes and no one to root for, but Bullhead is simply a well-made film.