LFF 2021: Bull – Review

Release Date – 5th November 2021, Cert – 18, Run-time – 1 hour 28 minutes, Director – Paul Andrew Williams

Having been believed to be dead for 10 years, Bull (Neil Maskell) returns to exact revenge on those who suddenly turned against him all those years ago.

“Your family was put on this earth to destroy mine, and I’m not gonna allow it”. An idea which appears to be believed by both sides of the feud when believed-to-be-dead Bull (Neil Maskell) suddenly returns after ten years. He’s hurt, angry, grieving and most of all seeking revenge on those who suddenly turned against him all those years ago. He creates a path building all the way to the top, ex-father-in-law Norm (David Hayman). Bull’s trail starts quickly, swift and clearly. A stream of blood begins to flow as his thirst for revenge seems to have only strengthened over the decade – in which none of the characters appear to have aged – since he was seemingly disposed of after multiple arguments with Norm’s daughter, and Bull’s ex, Gemma (Lois Brabin-Platt), from whom he tried to get custody of their son.

The 18 rating is certainly lived up to in the case of the killings that we see Bull act out. He’s an unflinchingly tough figure who knows exactly what he wants to do and how he wants to do it. Such moments certainly have an effect on the viewer, however the scenes around them seem somewhat generic within the British gangster/ revenge genre. It’s pushed by the feeling that initially the film appears to be telling two stories at the same time. One of Bull getting revenge, and one building up the reason as to just why he’s seeking revenge in the first place. The two begin to feel as if they’re competing for space within the short 88 minute run-time and the shifts in focus turn to your shifts in attention and having to settle back into the other/ next point despite the fact that both are linked.

However, as we enter into the second half and the film builds further up towards an eventual meeting between Bull’s increasing anger and Norm’s growing worry, gradually not doing his best to hide it, things slightly pick up. A somewhat episodic nature is left behind and the narrative comes together a bit more to have a bit more fluidity. Maskell certainly makes for an interesting lead. The rage of the character particularly comes through his near-enjoyment of his revenge. One sequence in a fairground in particular has an effect as you feel his victim’s unease and knowledge that there is no escape from the uncertainty at what will happen with Bull confronting him on one of the rides. Yet, Bull isn’t completely a character that you get behind – in fact the film as a whole isn’t overly one where you find yourself supporting any of the major characters; although Bull does have the aim of trying to find his son, freeing him from a life within the crime family who attacked him all those years ago.

It’s a point that Bull doesn’t always dwell on as it moves from violent attack to preparations for further violent attacks in the guise of construction workers in a greasy spoon. There’s certainly plenty to like and generally keep you invested in the film as it goes over its fairly short course, and while initially feeling slightly conflicting with its narrative style it eventually comes together for the final standoffs and the core finale to have more effect than the more generic, slightly episodic stylings of the first half. It makes for a solid British gangster, revenge thriller. One that, like the character of Bull himself, knows exactly what it wants to go out and do and goes to do that with a direct plan, even if it does cause a few splatters along the way.

Once the narrative becomes more direct, with less competition between the build-ups, it’s easier to enjoy the violent British gangster revenge stylings of Bull, especially when it shifts away from more generic elements.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

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