Bull (2021) – Film Review
Director: Paul Andrew Williams
Cast: Neil Maskell, David Hayman, Tamzin Outhwaite
By @Roger Crow
Whether by accident or design, there are shades of a certain Clint Eastwood classic about this brutal urban Western.
A hugely accomplished revenge thriller written and directed by Bafta-winner Paul Andrew Williams, it stars Neil Maskell as the eponymous protagonist.
David Hayman, essentially playing a more ruthless version of the character from recent thriller The Ballad of Billy McRae, is the gangland boss who uses Bull as his muscle. If a deal needs signing, Bull helps speed up the process.
The movie wastes little time setting out its stall. There are stabbings, shootings, knifings, hacking, slashings, and some other shocking images. And yet despite all the violence, the whole thing keeps you hooked from the first few minutes until the end.
The timeline jumps between a decade ago and Bull’s apparent demise in a burning caravan, and present day. We see the wronged anti hero wreaking his vengeance while an array of gangsters, molls, associates and relatives react with genuine shock at Bull’s reign of terror. How did he survive a fate we’re not clear of until the end of the third act?
And what happened to Bull’s son, the only innocent party in the movie?
Well, the answer, when it comes, feels like the pay-off of one of my favourite thrillers of the late 1980s. And like a key name in that movie, a moniker in this film gives the game away. It’s not obvious until you know the context.
Yes, the finale involves a leap of faith, but it’s also a hugely satisfying answer to the atrocities that fill the lean running time.
There’s very little wasted footage here. No pretentious elements; no sense of a film-maker filling frames with good looking imagery while they try and find the story.
Just a blistering turn from Neil Maskell, who stole the show in Ben Wheatley’s chilling masterpiece Kill List, and does an equally compelling job here.
Bull is the sort of role Ray Winstone might have played 20 years ago, and I have a feeling Hollywood will finally snap Maskell up as the generic bad guy in their next potential blockbuster.
I also suspect Bull will be one of the most talked about British thrillers of the year following its debut at the London Film Festival. It’s one of those movies that once it’s over, you want to watch the whole thing again from a fresh perspective.
An instant classic.