Review: Bull

Written and directed by Paul Andrew Williams, Bull (Neil Maskell) mysteriously returns home after a 10 year absence to seek revenge on those who double crossed him all those years ago. Also starring: Lois Brabin-Platt, David Hayman, Kevin Harvey, Jake Davies, Tamzin Outhwaite and David Nellist.

Crime is a staple of British cinema, whether it be murder, gangsters, drugs or a combination of all and Bull slides easily into the fold. However, that ultimately proves to be its key downfall, wading into overly travelled territory. It’s a typical revenge story, there’s nothing original to the journey it takes and the one unique turn it tries to throw in the mix is a cheap, unsatisfying twist. It hits various different stereotypes and cliches along the way, and lacks a reason to invest in its story. The character of Bull is one you’d likely find Liam Neeson or Jason Statham portraying, a dedicated father and man capable of great violence but without a more rounded personality.

With a story that’s predictable and one-note, it distinctly restricts what the cast is capable of bringing to the table. For Maskell, this feels like a role he could do in his sleep at this point, it doesn’t feel at all a challenge for him. Hayman similarly can easily pull this off but does have a good presence. The rest of the cast mostly hits insincere and forced notes, the stereotypical dialogue is in big part to blame for that.

The style of direction is what you’d expect for this type of feature, it leans into the intensity and darkness. However, at times it goes overboard with the violence in a clear attempt to shock. Overall, it’s well done, adds in notes of colour throughout to add variety to the darkness. It moves with a decent pace but does hit repetitive notes within its overriding theme of revenge, slowing it down.

Bull follows a disappointing pattern of stereotypes and unoriginal themes. It begins to feel more derivative as times goes on and sadly its key attempt to change that is, paired with some overt violence, a transparent shot at shock and surprise. With wooden dialogue and a predictable story, the quality of its acting and direction could never surpass the level needed to balance out that unoriginality.

Verdict: ✯ | 2/10

Reviewed as part of London Film Festival 2021 – Available in select cinemas from 5th November

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