by Sarah Cook
Neil Maskell is a tremendous actor. From the haunting Kill List to the quirky Utopia, Maskell has gifted us with some bloody brilliant roles. The minute he appears on screen, you cannot keep your eyes off him.
This is especially so in Paul Andrew William’s Bull as Maskell gives yet another tour-de-force performance
The film’s premise is simple enough: A gang enforcer is double-crossed by his friends. Ten years later, he returns on the scene to exact his revenge and find his estranged son. Cue bloody violence and squeamish moments as our anti-hero leaves a trail of bodies and terror in his wake.
Bull is an unflinching thriller that is filled with haunting imagery, pulpy violence, and a rage that burns under the surface. Paul Andrew Williams, whose previous outing a Song for Marion could not be further from Bull if it tried, directs a tightly wound thriller that utilises every desperate and agonising moment
Maskell really takes Bull by the horns and runs with it. The lead actor, who is so desperately brilliant in everything he does, is menacingly good as this man scorned. His vengeance feels just, even though historically he isn’t the nicest, and you are immediately invested in his brutal and bloody journey.
This anger is near biblical. Bull himself is turned near deranged as he hunts his victims down. In one sequence, a dizzying Waltzer ride turns into mayhem, all the while, Bull laughs in a cacophony of mania. There is only one actor who could pull this off so successfully and thankfully, it is Maskell.
The film itself does borrow from other British revenge films, the most notable being Shane Meadow’s Dead Man’s Shoes. That lone gunman seeking his pound of flesh to right the wrongs of his past leaves Bull in a familiar territory for far too long that, when it does try to pull you in a different direction, it can be a little bit too late. (Although, it is enjoyable when you realise that something far more sinister is going on).
Plus, I hate to come across prudish but there are violent moments that feel unwarranted here. I say unwarranted because the appearance of bloody finger stumps or handless arms feel a bit, well, silly. Especially when the undercurrent of wrath is so deliciously and delicately done.
Bull is a taut 85-minute film that is elevated from its British gangster brethren due to a towering performance from Maskell. Forged in the fires of hell, this intimidating and powerful performance charges on the screen with the weight and power of the film’s namesake.
Sure enough, when the credits roll, Bull’s eyes will haunt you forever.
Bull is out in cinemas this Friday!