Elderly Arnie takes on a Belgian farmer pumped full of cattle steroids in this week’s DVD grudge match.
Bullhead (Soda Pictures) tells the story of cattle farmer Jacky Vanmarsenille (Matthias Schoenaerts, Rust & Bone), a man constantly pumped-up on cattle steroids and hormones, who finds himself immersed in the duplicitous Belgian bovine underworld after entering into a shady deal with mafioso meat traders. When an investigating federal agent is murdered and a woman from Jacky’s traumatic past unexpectedly resurfaces, the farmer is forced to confront his decades-old demons and protect his family from the repercussions of his actions.
Built around a mesmeric lead performance from Schoenarts, who went on to film Jacques Audiard’s Rust & Bone (before heading Stateside for a remake of his Belgian breakthrough hit Loft), Bullhead is a meaty, disturbing drama that has its roots in real life events. Unfortunately, the various plot strands have a tendency to congeal into a slightly stodgy whole, giving the film a disappointingly muddled feel. Frustratingly, Bullhead also plays its (truly disturbing) trump card unnecessarily early, diminishing the power of what follows.
That said, for all of its faults, Bullhead is never less than memorable, even if its dangerously swollen narrative would probably be better suited to a TV drama, where its numerous storylines could stretch their legs, rather than tripping over themselves. Indeed, director Michael R Roskam is said to be working on a pilot for HBO, suggesting he won’t have to curtail his storytelling instincts for long. In the meantime, he and leading man Schoenaerts are both on their way to Hollywood for the Dennis Lehane-scripted ensemble drama Animal Rescue later this year, which will hopefully see them step things up to the next level. Intriguing stuff.
Making his first lead role since 2003’s slap-dash Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, The Last Stand (Lionsgate) sees Arnold Schwarzenegger re-enter the action movie fray after an appropriately bruising end to his bizarre political career. After leaving his post as an LAPD narcotics cop, Sheriff Ray Owens (Arnie) is content to see out the twilight of his career in the sleepy border town of Sommerton Junction. However, following a spectacular escape from an FBI prisoner convoy, Gabriel Cortez (Eduardo Noriega, Blackthorn, Transsiberian), a notorious drug kingpin, is hurtling towards the Mexican border in a souped-up sports car, ready to enact the next stage of his audacious plan. After gathering together a rag-tag squad of ill-prepared locals Ray decides that he is the only thing standing between Cortez and his desperate escape to Mexico.
Directed by Kim Ji-woon, the South Korean director behind impressive material such as on The Good, the Bad, the Weird and I Saw The Devil, The Last Stand is a cut above similar Hollywood B-movie material, and contains enough blood-loss to keep fans of Kim’s earlier material satisfied. Arnie’s cartoonish lead role is tempered by an enviable supporting cast crammed with character actors such as Forest Whitaker, Peter Stormare and Luis Guzman, although Johnny Knoxville grates as a local weapons enthusiast who helps Arnie defend the town.
While not as sadistic as the intense I Saw The Devil, The Last Stand is immeasurably better than post-peak Arnie garbage such as Eraser and The 6th Day, and deserves to tap into an appreciative audience. Who knows, if Arnie can resist his dangerous impulses and avoid tampering with his former glories we could be in for Hollywood’s weirdest comeback yet. Well, he said he would be back!