As far as brutal revenge thrillers go, Paul Andrew Williams’ new film Bull may be one of the most exhilarating, queasy and unsettling films I’ve ever seen. I went into it knowing next to nothing, not having watched the trailer beforehand or reading anything about it. The only thing I saw was that it was a well-rated thriller starring Neil Maskell (playing the protagonist Bull), who has become one of my favourite British actors in recent years.
Without giving too much away, the film tells the story of Bull, an enforcer for his father-in-law’s (played by the incredible David Heyman) vicious criminal crew, and his willingness to seek revenge for an event that changed everything for him. That particular event is told in flashbacks, fragmented throughout the film, providing the viewer with context on Bull’s descent into madness. There’s something very skeletal and cold about this film. The striking gore and violence is uncompromising throughout and is contrasted by Bull’s deep frustration and pain, which grows and grows into something truly terrifying. He’s unhinged, on a quest to kill and torture anyone that has either wronged him or simply in his way, leading to scenes of almost unnecessary and uncomfortable brutality. Set in and around London, a big chunk of the film takes place at night, and if you live in this country and have experienced cold, lonely walks around autumn or winter time, you’d understand what kind of mood I’m describing here. Maybe it’s also to do with the fact that the cast is relatively small, and gets smaller as Bull goes on this brutal killing spree. There’s no remorse, no emotion attached to the horror of it all. The violence just… happens. There’s no alternative for Bull. He’s got no choice, at least in his mind, which is what makes the film so unsettling to watch. You already know the fate of the characters as soon as they’re introduced, making their presence almost hopeless and helpless. I drew parallels to the Joker and his descent into full insanity. The world against him, on a mission to destroy every living thing in front of him for the sake of his own peace. Neil Maskell’s performance is ice cold and utterly petrifying in this film, and he was a true joy to watch. The remainder of the cast were brilliant, the cinematography was excellent and the mood and colour the film radiated from start to finish was exquisite.
All in all, Bull captures a brutality that I haven’t seen in a revenge-thriller in a very long time. I loved every second of it, as each scene was directed masterfully, portraying a man’s descent into madness poignantly, with a nonchalance to it that is just so unsettling and disturbing. It’s simply one of my favourite films of this year.