Generally favorable reviews - based on 24 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 15 out of 24
  2. Negative: 1 out of 24
  1. Reviewed by: Marjorie Baumgarten
    Feb 15, 2012
    A persistent narrative thread that pits Flemish-speaking Belgians against French-speaking Belgians will whiz past most American viewers, but hopefully not distract from its overall impact because this movie grabs the bull by the horns and takes viewers on a surprising ride.
  2. Reviewed by: Wesley Morris
    Feb 23, 2012
    Roskam appears more interested in trying to combine genres that don't easily cohere. On one hand, the film's a crime-thriller and police procedural. On the other, it's about the lingering trauma of Jacky's personal misfortune. The other hand is much stronger.
  3. Reviewed by: Kate Erbland
    Feb 14, 2012
    An impressively dark and well-crafted crime tale about, of all things, cattle farming and "the hormone mafia underworld."
  4. Reviewed by: Roger Ebert
    Feb 29, 2012
    Bullhead contains the elements for a simple but overwhelming personal tragedy. It also contains other elements that create a muddle. It's one of those films you have to reconstruct in your mind.
  5. Reviewed by: Michael Phillips
    Mar 1, 2012
    Schoenaerts is often affecting and just as often scarily intense. The film's intensity, by contrast, beams on and off.
  6. Reviewed by: Peter Rainer
    Mar 2, 2012
    Schoenaerts has the gift of being able to make inarticulateness expressive. Perhaps this is why, in moments, he seems to recall Brando and Dean.
  7. Reviewed by: Owen Gleiberman
    Feb 22, 2012
    Overheated yet bizarrely opaque criminal character study from Belgium.
  8. Reviewed by: Kenneth Turan
    Feb 16, 2012
    An intense, shattering film, a confident and accomplished, punch-in-the-gut debut by Belgian writer-director Michael R. Roskam that starts out like a thriller and turns into a disturbing tragedy in an unlikely and unexpected key.
  9. Reviewed by: Mike Scott
    Mar 16, 2012
    Unlike most enforcers in the movies, Jacky isn't just a brainless slab of meat.
  10. Reviewed by: Elizabeth Weitzman
    Feb 16, 2012
    Schoenaerts capably handles a difficult role that's equal parts pathetic, repulsive and heartbreaking. But you'll need a strong will to spend your time with such a tragically hopeless character.
  11. Reviewed by: Rex Reed
    Feb 14, 2012
    I can tell you only that this is a film unlike anything I've seen before-harrowing, haunting and sordid. Be forewarned, it is not for the squeamish. But take a chance and you will be rewarded with a work of nightmarish force that is unforgettable.
  12. Reviewed by: Scott Tobias
    Feb 21, 2012
    Writer-director Michael K. Roskam takes his time in revealing why Jacky needs to shoot up, but that LaMotta restlessness is unmistakable - this bull here can rage.
  13. Reviewed by: Shawn Levy
    Feb 23, 2012
    Characters in Bullhead act out of stupidity, greed, anger and vanity; their world is filmed in a washed-out haze; the miserable fortune that devastated young Jacky haunts him ceaselessly still. The film's final notes hint at a state of grace, perhaps, or at least of release. But there's a tautological determinism throughout that suggest otherwise.
  14. Reviewed by: Walter Addiego
    Feb 24, 2012
    There seems to be a pretty good film lurking around inside Bullhead, which makes what we actually see on the screen all the more frustrating.
  15. Reviewed by: Calum Marsh
    Feb 15, 2012
    What Bullhead ultimately lacks isn't balls but insight and empathy.
  16. Reviewed by: Dana Stevens
    Feb 17, 2012
    It's Schoenaerts' magisterial presence that carries the film. In between bursts of convincingly horrific violence (including a fight in an elevator that makes Ryan Gosling's in "Drive" look like a schoolyard tiff), Schoenaerts also shows himself capable of moments of great subtlety and delicacy.
  17. Reviewed by: Noel Murray
    Feb 15, 2012
    Bullhead is well-plotted, with a powerful ending, but its most brutal scene comes early, explaining why for Schoenaerts, life has been one long wince.
  18. 90
    The actor literally takes the metaphors of his bull-headed character to the limits and is never less than believable or mesmerizing.
  19. Reviewed by: Stephen Holden
    Feb 16, 2012
    Part character study, part crime thriller, Bullhead is the impressive but deeply flawed first feature written and directed by Michael R. Roskam.
  20. Reviewed by: Anthony Lane
    Feb 20, 2012
    Jacky is not merely beefed up. He is a Minotaur in the making, and that, surely, is why his story becomes such a labyrinth. [27 Feb. 2012, p.87]
  21. Reviewed by: David Fear
    Feb 14, 2012
    Every time the narrative's underworld schnooks and low-level lowlifes edge their way out of the periphery, a sense of snorting impatience takes over. This is Jacky's story, and when he's grabbing Bullhead by the horns, you don't want him to let go.
  22. Reviewed by: Boyd van Hoeij
    Feb 13, 2012
    Though the story is told and edited in a way that too often obscures rather than enhances its central tragedy, much is compensated by a career-defining, powerfully physical lead perf by Matthias Schoenaerts and ace lensing by local widescreen wiz Nicolas Karakatsanis.
  23. Reviewed by: Melissa Anderson
    Feb 14, 2012
    The sentiment, just like the repeated shots of Jacky lying in the fetal position in a tub, shadowboxing, and erupting into a bestial 'roid rage, typifies the film's habit of flattening an idea rather than developing it.
  24. Reviewed by: Mark Jenkins
    Feb 23, 2012
    Many terms applied to action movies - muscular, animalistic, testosterone-fueled - are literally true of Bullhead.
User Score

Generally favorable reviews- based on 32 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 9 out of 10
  2. Mixed: 0 out of 10
  3. Negative: 1 out of 10
  1. Feb 18, 2012
    It's an outstanding film. The lead character is so damaged, and you develop such sympathy for him. The trailer led me to believe he'd be some monster, but the flashbacks to his youth are uniquely heartbreaking, and you come to truly feel for the guy as he's doing his best to live a quasi-normal life given his circumstances. The supporting characters are fantastic. Even some stabs at light humor within the very heavy storyline are effective. The cadence of the film is right on the money. Full Review »
  2. Feb 23, 2012
    Very good movie. Starts as a rural crime flick then subtly turns into an intense character study. Great performances by the lead actors. Don't miss it, this is what cinema should be: a movie that leaves you thinking for hours about what you just saw. Full Review »
  3. Feb 17, 2012
    What could have been a very interesting character study on the things that mature us and make us men, is inevitably distracted by a relevant and interesting sub-plot involving treating cattle with illegal growth stimulants in the gangster underworld. The story gets lost in the plot, though the acting is worth the price of admission, and the direction at times is shows an amazing amount of empathy and fear. This good film could have been an instant classic with another script rewrite, but it's still a worthy contender for Best Foreign Language film, though it'll inevitably lose to "A Separation". Full Review »