Bullhead was nominated for Best Foreign Film at the last Academy Awards and while it did not win the award on the stage, it won the award in my mind. Michael R. Roskam‘s gritty tale of irreversible destiny is promising filmmaking from a new director and it also consists of one of the most vulnerable and sincere performances in recent memories by actor Matthias Schoenaerts. I doubt Bullhead will be for everyone, but those that discover this foreign gem, they will be glad that they did.
I’ve seen Bullhead a total of three times and each viewing is as intense and depressing as the last. There’s just something about the central character that gives the film hope up until the very end, despite already knowing where the film is going. It’s hard to explain, but it’s such a rare feeling that only comes when watching engaging cinema, which is what Bullhead is. You’ll root for Schoenaerts’ Jacky every single time and you’ll hope that somehow he manages to change or alter parts of his life that left him scarred forever, but in the end you’ll be forced to accept his grim outcome. An outcome that has been brewing his entire life.
I can sit here and praise Matthias Schoenaerts‘ sympathetic and misunderstood character and how Schoenaerts plays the character with an equal balance of anger and tranquility. I can sit here and tell you how his Jacky is a wild and crazy animal on the outside, but a gentle and nurturing being on the inside, but I’ve already done this once before and I think my original reaction still holds strong to my opinions on the film.
So, I’m going to link you to my theatrical review of the film and continue my review discussing the technical qualities of the Blu-Ray.
Click here to read my theatrical review of Bullhead.
The disc comes to Blu-Ray with a mixed bag 1080p transfer. The movie was shot on film and digitally transferred, which makes the presentation full of life and stylistic color. There’s a dim presence that takes over most of the film, with occasional blur and shadowy colors, but that only enhances the film’s journey. Bullhead is a gritty crime story and the transfer is often full of dark coloring and washed away scenery.
The 5.1 DTS-HD Audio Track is precise, allowing you complete audio control over Jacky’s mindset. There’s enough activity on this track to keep every channel busy, but nothing is ever too loud or thumping. Most of the track holds back and focuses more on specific detail and moments, instead of the scenes overall tone or mood. It’s more on the atmospheric side of things, which makes the track something you’ll want to pay attention to.
Here’s a detailed list of special features included on the disc:
- Commentary with Director Michael R. Roskam: The director speaks with an interviewer on different aspects of the film, such as where he got inspiration for specific shots, scenes and plot points. This is a very general track that covers a lot of grounds and it is presented in English.
- The Making of Bullhead (HD): A 21 minute making-of feature that infuses interviews and on-set footage, allowing you for a more extensive look at the filmmaking process of this engaging title. The feature is presented in Dutch and French with English subtitles.
- Interviews (HD): An interview with director Michael R. Roskam and an interview with the star Matthias Schoenaerts.
- The One Thing to Do: Roskam’s 2005 Short Film Starring Matthias Schoenaerts (SD): The short film that first paired Roskam and Schoenaerts up, which eventually led to the making of Bullhead. The short is roughly 25 minutes long and it is presented in Dutch and French with English subtitles.
- Theatrical Trailer (HD)
- Booklet: Another Criterion styled booklet that features tons of stills, an essay by Michael Mann and several character comments.
- Digital Copy
Most films pass over you as you walk out the theater and go about your day. They might resurface when you’re telling a joke to a friend or discussing your weekend with co-workers, but they never stick with you quite like Bullhead. It’ll leave you chewing over what you’ve just watched for days to come, until another (much required) viewing occurs. It’s a tough tale of darkness that requires multiple viewings and discussion, because of how detailed Michael R. Roskam‘s characters are and because of how human Matthias Schoenaerts‘ Jacky really is.
Bullhead is a tragic film and a damn good one at that. Image Entertainment brings the Drafthouse Films presented Bullhead to Blu-Ray with a hearty list of special features, a subtle audio track and an aggressive video transfer. I couldn’t have asked for a better package for such an unrelenting film.
This review is based on a copy of the Blu-Ray that we received for reviewing purposes.
Bullhead is a tragic drama that deserves all of the praise it's getting, if not more. Thanks to the film's bold direction and a unique performance by Matthias Schoenaerts, it makes for an almost perfect viewing experience.