Michael R. Roskan; cinematographer: Nicolas Karakatsanis;
editor: Benoit De
Clerck; music: Raf Keunen; cast: Matthias Schoenaerts (Jacky Vanmarsenille), Jeroen Perceval
(Diederik), Barbara Sarafian (Eva), Jeanne Dandoy (Lucia
Schepers), Tibo Vandenborre (Antony De Greef), Sam
Louwyck (Marc De Kuyper), Kristof Renson (Stieve
Vanmarsenille), Philippe Grand'Henry (David Filippini), Erico
Salamone (Christian Filippini), David Murgia (young Bruno Schepers), Robin
Valvekens (Jacky, as a child), Frank Lammers (shady
veterinarian), Kris Cuppens (Jean Vanmarsenille);
Runtime: 124; MPAA Rating: R; producer: Bart Van Langendonck/Peter
Bouckaert/Patrick Quinet/Jan Van der Zanden;
Drafthouse Films; 2011-Belgium-in Dutch and French-with
"A ferocious crime thriller that grabbed my attention and held my interest throughout."
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
The first feature film directed by the Belgian Michael R. Roskan is a ferocious crime thriller that grabbed my attention and held my interest throughout. It's a blood curdling sensational character study and is like no other crime film I've seen. It's about the illegal use of growth hormones in cattle and of how much of an overly testosterone anxiety-ridden society we modern westerners live in and about a psychologically damaged fragile man on steroids who is filled with 'roid rage he can't control. The film is inspired by the headline story of the murder, by the aptly dubbed hormone mafia, in 1995, of a Belgian government veterinarian checking for cattle injected with illegal substances.
The Flemish, muscular,
brooding, 30-year-old Jacky Vanmarsenille (Matthias Schoenaerts), is a thuggish
farmer who intimidates local farmers to buy only his
family's growth hormone tainted cattle. The small-time
criminal Flemish farmer from Limburg, Belgium, injects
himself with the same steroids and experimental growth
hormone drugs he gives to the animals to fatten them
Uncle Eddy, who runs the
small-time family illegal hormone injected cattle
business, makes a questionable deal with big-time West
Flanders black-market supplier of growth hormones De Kuyper (Sam Louwyck),
even though word on the street is that the hormone
mafia boss recently killed a snooping investigator cop
and the cops are targeting him as a suspect. Jacky
can't talk his family out of making the lucrative
deal, but continues to express to them his
reservations while acting increasingly strange as if
he's trying to crawl out of his skin. By a set of
coincidences the innocent Jacky gets implicated in the
murder of the cop through the French speaking and
Flemish hating Liege garage owner (Erico Salamone) and his brother mechanic
(Philippe Grand'Henry), who De Kuyper paid to make sure
the car used by the hit man in the assassination
wasn't found again.
Jacky has even more bad feelings about dealing with De Kuyper when he encounters his estranged childhood pal who abandoned him at a time he needed him most, Diederik (Jeroen Perceval), working for him as a hormone trafficker. The creepy Diederik is also a police informer, working for a police team that has a surveillance on De Kuyper.
In Liege, the violent
Raging Bull-like, head-butting, Jacky, the Bullhead of
the pic, meets Lucia (Jeanne Dandoy), who is working in a perfume shop. She was
the French speaking girl from his childhood whose
crazed brother Bruno (David Murgia) assaulted him viciously and took away his
manhood in an incident that ruined his life.
It's a Greek tragedy-like drama that has many things going on in its complex plot line including the mentally crippled criminal Jacky crying inside himself for something more than revenge to live for. It depicts the animosity between the Dutch-speaking Flemish people and French-speaking Walloons. It has the troubled film noir anti-hero identify more with the animals he injects than people, and that the shady deals in cattle country signal only bad things can happen to someone born and raised in such a poisoned culture. When a somber voiced narrator tells us at the prologue that "No matter what you do or think, one thing is for sure: You're always fucked. Now, tomorrow, next week or next year, until the end of time, fucked," by the intense film's end you know what he means and you either find the frightening story hits you between the eyes or misses the target. What everyone should agree on is that Schoenaerts' performance is impressive, as the wild beast with a brain that tells him that no matter what he does there's no perfume to put on to disguise his stink or any way for him to escape his fate.
REVIEWED ON 7/11/2012 GRADE: A
Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"
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