It’s always interesting to see what kind of crime films come out of foreign countries and places that aren’t the United States, France or Hong Kong. Those three have invented and reinvented the genre a handful of times. Everyone else is catching up for the most part; crime is a weird genre in that the three main trendsetting areas of the world. The French crafted the modern way we look at the crime film, of cops and criminals, in the French New Wave. Many things from directors like Melville found their way into American films as his films influenced an entire generation of filmmakers in America. They in turn inspired many Asian films; Hong Kong took the genre and enveloped the basic structure of an action film within it. American filmmakers have taken elements from both and taken it into a deeply dramatic way on occasion.
It’s oddly incestuous in a way.
In any crime film made in the world there are traces of all of the staples of the genre; it’s just a matter of seeing where they go with it. From Belgium comes Bullhead, which offers a fairly interesting take on the genre. Focusing on a mob that trades in meat and hormones, we follow it through the eyes of a disturbed steroid abuser (Matthias Schoenaerts) in the middle of all of it with an even more disturbing back story.
Michael Roskam has crafted an interesting story about the criminal underworld, and those in it, and normally this would be enough to be good but not great until he adds in one element: the world of meat. It’s one thing for criminals to dabble in things like drugs, etc, but transplanting the criminal underworld into one of commodities is one that makes it unique. It makes it stand out from the truckload of good but not great crime films that dabble in the typical far of the genre.
The problem is that the film focuses on a handful of characters and doesn’t really give us a full look at any of them. Bullhead has so much going for it but it doesn’t fully capitalize on it. It’s an interesting film, and worth the investment, but it never quite hits all the highest notes.
Roskam contributes a Commentary for the film in English, and both he and star Schoenaerts are interviewed in separate featurettes as well. Their prior work The One Thing To Do from 2005 is also included as is a generic making-of.
Drafthouse Films presents Bullhead. Written and Directed by Michael R. Roskam. Starring Matthias Schoenaerts, Jeroen Perceval, Barbara Sarafian. Running time: 128 minutes. Rated R. Released: June 26, 2012. Available at Amazon.com.
Tags: Drafthouse Films