Bull is the brutal new revenge thriller from Paul Andrew Williams (London to Brighton), and I wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone looking for an evocative, yet hauntingly violent, British vendetta movie.
Neil Maskell (Kill List) stars as the titular Bull, a gangland enforcer who’s been off the scene for ten years, ever since a violent incident brought his thuggish employment to a premature end. Back in town, he’s looking for answers regarding the whereabouts of his wife and son, and revenge against his old outfit – not least of all with its leader, Norm, played by a terrifying David Hayman (Taboo, Vertical Limit). Bull’s vendetta is further complicated by the fact that Norm also happens to be Bull’s father-in-law.
Maskell methodically tears through all those who have crossed him, in a way that’s sure to invite comparisons to Get Carter and Dead Man’s Shoes, as well as his own performances in Kill List and Utopia. There are few actors in the UK today who can play a dead-eyed psycho as well as Maskell, and once this Bull shows his horns, it feels like the whole underworld is his china shop.
Bull was one of the first indie films to get back up and shooting after the UK’s initial lockdown, and it’s great to see something so visceral shot in an era of social distancing and behind-the-scenes facemasks. The photography is beautiful – figures and faces are frequently lit by table lamps, shotgun blasts, fairground rides, or simply a massive burning caravan. Williams credits the 1000 fps of the Phantom high speed camera; it certainly looks gorgeous.
More importantly, the performances are electric. Maskell’s monomaniac enforcer and Hayman’s psychopathic local gangland boss are each bleakly drawn, fearsome creations, neither of them afraid of getting their hands wet – it’s hard to tell which one is the more terrifying. If you want someone to carve a bloody path through a damp corner of England’s ganglands, you can’t do better than a frost-eyed Neil Maskell. And yet Hayman is even more loathsome. As they close in on each other, its clear they’re going to drag themselves and everyone around them straight into a pit of carnage. So, if you don’t like body parts being hacked off, get ready to bury your face in someone’s shoulder, because Bull is coming… and he’s not happy!
Bull played at the London Film Festival last night (October 17), with various national rollouts to come later in the year.
In the meantime, here’s the trailer: