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He’s a bull, you see, and I certainly didn’t need that pointed out to me late in the script. That eventual proclamation comes off as forced and unnecessary. Still, I must say, that I was completely unprepared for the raw, physical power conveyed by actor Matthias Schoenaerts in this celebrated Belgian film by director Michael R. Roskam(it was among the five films nominated for this past February’s Academy Awards, in the category of Best Foreign Language Film…eventually losing to Iran’s “A Separation”). I was completely riveted by Schoeneart’s performance as the adult Jacky Vanmarsenille, immediately thinking that this burly, powerfully built actor was perfectly cast in the role. Then the shock of watching an interview with him on the special features of the DVD. He’s just your average skinny guy! I was amazed! Apparently, he bulked up with weights and a high-calorie diet—gaining something like 40 pounds in the process. He didn’t even realize how successful he was in his training until friends started to say things to him like, “you are getting scary looking”. Now, I was really impressed. With six months to go in 2012, this is officially my favorite performance of the year, so far. Unfortunately, due to delayed releases of foreign films in the U.S., this film is considered a 2011 movie—even though it wasn’t available stateside until February of this year. In fact, 4 of the 5 nominees weren’t in theaters until 2012. Even, “A Separation”(the eventual winner)wasn’t in general release until December 30th of 2011…so good luck catching the annual foreign language nominees before the Oscar telecast. For most folks, it’s impossible. But don’t make the mistake of ignoring those films now, especially considering that all 5 of the last awards’ nominees are on the release roster for this summer(Coming soon, a review of Poland’s “In Darkness”, and then before this sweltering season is over, the remainder of the group. Let’s call it my Summer International Project 2012. In fact, SIP ’12 has a nice ring to it!).               Now, if only I could report that the entire movie is as magnificent as that central performance. The plot is convoluted to a fault and the set-ups and follow-throughs are often heavy-handed. Also, the film’s treatment of homosexuality was sometimes troublesome, although I’m giving the director a pass on that one because I am not certain what he was shooting for(satire?, comedy?). Jacky Vanmarsenille(Schoenaerts)is running a bull and cattle farm that was passed down by his dad. There are apparently constant surveillance activities of the country’s farms of this kind because of rumoured and actual use of illegal growth hormones. Meanwhile, Jacky himself is shown to be abusing steroids because of a horrendous childhood assault(you’ll be shown this incident in flashback, and although somewhat discreet, it is still absolutely cringe-worthy…so, be warned). As shady dealings and various shenanigans unveil themselves at the farms featured in the plotline, there is new intense scrutiny after the murder of a federal police investigator takes center stage in the drama. All of these threads lead to people, places and events from Jack’s tragic past, as his pain and emotion bubble to the surface and threaten to burst through his powerful facade. Can Jacky face all of this and move on with his life? And will he find love, or will he always be doomed to failure?               The film doesn’t work for me without that magnificent performance…and the performance is enough. You should be riveted every time the character of Jacky is on-screen because you will never be certain what lies on the horizon. This is the kind of stuff that should be winning awards, but mostly goes unsung here among the lazy, average American film-going crowd. Consider yourself a serious cinema lover? Queue this up on your Netflix account immediately.      Grade:  B


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