The Review at a Glance: (max score: 5 )
Audio/Video total rating:
( Max score: 100 )
Studio and Year: Drafthouse Films - 2011
MPAA Rating: R
Feature running time: 124 minutes
Disc Format: BD-25
Encoding: AVC (MPEG-4)
Video Aspect: 2.35:1
Audio Format(s): Dutch/French DTS-HD MA 5.1
Starring: Matthias Schoenaerts, Jeroen Perceval and Jeanne Dandoy
Directed by: Michael R. Roskam
Written by: Michael R. Roskam
Region Code: A
Blu-ray Disc release Date: June 26, 2012
A young cattle farmer is approached by a veterinarian to make a deal with a notorious beef trader.
Nothing I can say will prepare you for what lies within Bullhead. I could pine on about its themes of what longing for love and to be able to love can do to a soul, and how a single event can shape your life...but as much we can relate to the many themes buried within Bullhead, relating to our lead will be impossible for most. You see, Jacky Vanmarsenille is fueled by rage. His rage is fueled by his addiction to the Steroids that he injects everyday, just like the cattle he and his family raise and inject to make bigger, stronger and more profitable. Jacky shoots to build his masculinity, not just to be a strong man, but be the strongest man, and to try to forget and remedy a life changing, soul stealing event in his youth that shaped this life. As Jacky's crew work on a deal to be a distributor of their cattle to a underground beef trader/mafia man, his rage is even more fueled by being thrown full face back with the people who he loved, hated and who caused his life to go on the unfortunate collision course 20 years ago.
Bullhead is a unique film in many ways, but most notably the world it is set in is one I have never seen, or considered. This underground world of illegal beef trafficking, hormone injecting, mafia ties, and undercover police investigation are unique. Set in Belgium, Writer/Director Michael R. Roskam got this idea from a real story he heard on the news about this underground world of beef (ha!!) and a police investigations gone wrong. It was when he tied in this Jacky character that a protagonist (or is he an antagonist??) set the story/film in motion and it became a passion for him and actor Matthias Schoenaerts (Jacky). Matthias Schoenaerts is outstanding as Jacky, and this is a career defining performance that is breathtaking as his portrayal will stick with you long after the credits roll. I was so impressed that I had to learn more about him and was far from surprised that after over 30 films he is now listed as breaking into Hollywood in two films, one staring Mila Kunis, Zoe Saldana, Marion Cotillard & Clive Owen, the other starring Karl Urban & James Marsden.
As you can tell I am avoiding details on the plot and choose a very limited synopsis above. I went in not knowing a thing about the film and the experience was better this way. This is a drama that is not for the faint of heart, but for those that appreciate great film making, cinematography and acting. There is a moment in Bullhead that made me cringe and writhe in my seat. It rivled the curb stomp from American History X and the squeal like a pig scene in Deliverance. I highly recommend giving this Oscar nominated impressive debut from Writer/Director Michael R. Roskam a viewing.
The rating is for strong violence, language and sexual content
AUDIO/VIDEO - By The Numbers:
REFERENCE = 92-100 / EXCELLENT = 83-91 / GOOD = 74-82 / AVERAGE = 65-73 / BELOW AVERAGE = under 65
**My audio/video ratings are based upon a comparative made against other high definition media/blu-ray disc.**
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)
- Low frequency extension:
- Surround Sound presentation:
- Dialogue Reproduction:
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)
- Black level/Shadow detail:
- Color reproduction:
Bullhead comes to Blu-ray Disc from Image Entertainment featuring 1080p AVC encoded video that has an average bitrate of 11.8 Mbps and lossless DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio sound that has an average bitrate of 2.2 Mbps.
Bullhead's A/V presentation is a bit of a mixed bag, but this is mostly due to its gritty and depressed look not lending to the most spectacular high definition images. It has some very strong features, especially during the films limited bright scenes where fine details are apparent all over the frame. However, being stylized a bit darker, shadows do tend to slightly crush, though blacks are deep and inky. These blacks do show a bit of video noise, which I had a hard time deciphering whether it was film grain or not. Flesh-tones are spot-on real world, as are the films drab colors. I was pleased with the presentation and encode, even with the low average bitrate and believe it was faithful to what was on film with no signs of tinkering. The many shots of the rural Belgian landscape looked beautiful. Audiowise, the film is a bit limited to the front channels as it is quite and mostly a talkie. Not speaking Dutch (and just a little French), I was still impressed with the clarity of the voices, and the clear rendering of all intonation. Low end is limited by design until it explodes during the a scene in a Discotheque. Surrounds were limited to ambiance but did bring the on-screen world that much more to life. This is a pleasing track that really is all that it could be.
Constant image height viewers, subtitles are on screen, however, the very bottom of the lettering does go below the frame. It is still easy to read.
- Feature Commentary Featuring Director Michael Roskam
- (HD) The Making of Bullhead
- (HD) Interview with Star Matthias Schoenaerts
- (HD) Interview with Director Michael Roskam
- (HD) Michael Roskam 2005 Short Film "one thing to do", staring Matthias Schoenaerts
- (HD) Theatrical Trailer
- (HD) Digital Download in 720p
- (HD) 16 page booklet featuring introduction by Micheal Mann
Bullhead is the third release from Image Entertainments Drafthouse films collection, which seems to want to be considered in the likes of Criterion with its extensive booklet and numbered spine. I found the films A/V presentation to be well above average, and the subtitles very easy to flow along with. This is a breakthrough film for both actor Matthias Schoenaerts and writer/director Michael R. Roskam; keep your eye out for them in the future. The film is staggering and dark, and often a tough pill to swallow. Still, it keep me glued to the screen and seemed to inject me with some of the rage Jacky was injected with. I highly recommend giving Bullhead a viewing.
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Reference Review System:
JVC DLA-RS45 3D 1080p 3D High Definition Front Projector
Screen Innovations Solar HD 1.3 120" 2.40:1 CinemaScope Screen
Onkyo PR-SC5508 Pre/Pro
Sunfire Theater Grand 7201 Amplifier
Sony PS3 Slim Blu-ray Player (HDMI Audio/Video)
M&K S-150MKII LCR
M&K S-150T Tri-Pole Surrounds
M&K MX-350MKII Subwoofers