My first introduction to the Belgian film Bullhead was through NexxtLevelUp. I read Virgle Kent’s review of the movie nearly a year ago, yet the title remained in my ‘to watch’ queue up until recently. The plot is simple, dark, and character driven. On the surface it follows the protagonist Jacky in his attempt to navigate dealings with the ‘steroid mafia’ so that he can keep his family’s cattle business afloat. Digging deeper the character of Jacky has been traumatized from an incident in his youth and we are given a glimpse into the effect of this on his every day dealings. Jacky is reserved, feared, and himself scared of others knowing his shame: he has to inject testosterone for his testicles were obliterated by a mentally unstable bully in childhood.
After watching the film I read some reviews of the movie by noted film critics and anonymous bloggers alike. If its one sentiment they shared it is that one will most certainly feel pity for Jacky, but the plot itself was weak and only served to act as a platform to act out the inner struggles of the main character. Coincidentally enough many of the lesser writers chose to describe Jacky’s actions as “roid rage” or joked about Jacky’s abuse of testosterone.
The plot is simple. It is contrived and it’s sole purpose is to portray the inner struggle of Jacky. However, the inner struggle of Jacky is, like the plot, deliberate in order to make social commentary. Bullhead is a movie about societies perceptions of testosterone and nothing more. Jacky is Frankenstein’s monster. He embodies testosterone in his size and aggression, because of this society looks down upon him as if he were a jester to both mock and fear.
Having lost his testicles pre-pubescently Jacky must take exogenous testosterone in order to develop the correct secondary sexual characteristics. In the scene which Jacky’s parents consult with his doctor, the doctor bluntly states that if not given the recommended testosterone Jacky will never become a man. His mother replies asking “Will he be gay now?”
Despite being nearly halfway into the movie, this scene is where the true discourse of the movie is fully revealed. As transparent as it may be, this cattle farmer is seen by society as one in the same with the animals he raises. We believe testosterone must be controlled, must be caged, lest its wielder do wrong.
The day of Jacky’s mutilation was also the first day he noticed that girls have breasts. While his father was in a business meeting, young Jacky finds himself enamored by a young girl at the scrapyard. Her brother soon comes over to butt heads with him, taunting him, and asking how much he would pay to fuck his sister. Jacky submits until his father comes over to break things up. He has now begun to learn that his natural sexuality is evil.
Days later Jacky stumbles upon the hideout of the bully. The bully and his friends are looking at porno mags. The bully catches Jacky watching and this triggers the rage of the bully. Jacky is mutilated and learns it is wrong for him to experience human sexuality. At another point in the film this is referenced as Jacky refuses to fuck whores with his business partner.
However, Jacky still has sexual desire for the girl he noticed that day as a child. She now works at a perfume shop and after multiple attempts to talk to her he ends up following her to a nightclub. The girls friend pushes the girl to talk to Jacky and the girl objects saying its gross how big he is. The girl starts talking to Jacky, but is pulled away by a player-esque character. Later on Jacky headbutts the player and beats him into a coma, grunting animalistically.
Bullhead climaxes as Jacky’s life is crashing down around him. His ranch is threatened by a raid and he must destroy all of the hormones he is giving his cattle. Jacky’s love interest has realized it was Jacky who beat the player into a coma and Jacky is determined to finally take charge of his own life. Jacky laments that in his life he has never felt the need to protect someone like a wife or children because it is in his nature.
After reluctantly letting Jacky into her apartment the girl tells Jacky “you’re all animals” Jacky accepts that society will never again accept his testosterone; he chooses to end his life the only way he deems fit… as another bull to the slaughter.
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