Three men digging in the green earth beneath a pale blue sky.
As evening draws on, the figures become silhouettes; a fire burns. We stay fixed on this as they retreat slowly over the hillside, away from us.
Paul Andrew Williams’ Bull is a slow-burn thriller set apart, at least initially, by its restraint.
Bull (Neil Maskell, with a gaze as sharp as Ben Chad’s and Vanessa Whyte’s cinematography) is out for revenge. Why exactly we don’t know, but the caravan inferno he keeps flashing on is a likely clue. Bull has clearly suffered a trauma – the sound of the rotor ride is less night at the funfair than ‘Nam flashback – but to what degree is that responsible for his spree?1
The film finds moments of comic juxtaposition – Bull detachedly watching TV next to a man gaffer-taped to a chair – often as preludes to grisly violence. Norm (David Hayman, ruthless but “reasonable”, emanating wry Scottish menace)2 insists it can’t be Bull, but even so his crew keep dying bloodily.
Flashbacks, idyllic and otherwise, reveal Bull‘s connection to them and penchant for amputations.3 He is a classic movie psychopath, menacing and playful – one shot of Bull standing in a hedgerow, watching, waiting is pure Michael Myers – sympathetic in only one regard. Menacing and playful, monstrous but capable of mercy, the film rests on his shoulders.
Comparisons to the likes of Kill List and Dead Man’s Shoes abound, Bull trades in compelling ambiguity, but trades that for a multiple revelations that may, to different extents, delight and confound. It’s ending may have some viewers seeing red, but this is an impeccably-made film, with a moody, rhythmic score by Raffertie and terrific, understated composure.
Bull is showing in UK cinemas from 5th November, 2021