Film, DVD, Blu-Ray & Streaming Reviews - By Fans For Fans

Neil Maskell stars as the titular character in Paul Andrew Williams’ tale of revenge, BULL. Returning to his hometown, a place without any law and order, Bull begins his quest for vengeance against the local crime family he married into that betrayed him ten years earlier, leaving him for dead.


 In conversation with FRIGHTFEST, Maskell discusses making an old-fashioned British movie with a spiritual connection to 70’s cinema, while reframing it to feel contemporary and different.


 FRIGHTFEST: Take me back to the beginning - what made you want to be part of this project?


 NEIL MASKELL: The first thing was Paul Andrew Williams who wrote and directed it, was someone I knew. I'd worked with him very briefly on a pop video for James Lavelle, who is a founder of Mo’ Wax Records.



We had a lot of mutual friends and Paul invited me to a lot of screenings of his other work, like CHERRY TREE LANE and SONG FOR MARION. I always liked his stuff and hoped we'd work together one day. He always said, “Oh, we'll find something.”


 When this [BULL] came up, I actually bumped into him on the street and he said, “I've got something I want to do with you.” You think, 'Well, directors have a lot of stuff in the backpack - it might be something further down the line.’ I didn't expect it all to come together so quickly.


 For most actors, when the film’s called BULL and they offer you the part of Bull, it goes along way to convincing you to do it [laughs]. But mainly it was the opportunity to work with Paul at length and get an old-fashioned British movie made.


 FF: What is it about BULL that defines it as an old-fashioned British movie?


 NM: The use of location. I don't mean that glibly - it was shot in England, therefore. The film itself is almost like a genre film, like a western. The template of it reminds me of an old Walter Hill, or Sam Peckinpah film, and Paul talked a lot about HIGH PLAINS DRIFTER.


 The actual film BULL couldn't be anywhere but England. It's that forgotten town miles outside the city, where there's lawlessness and areas run by their own rules and stuff, where the police are almost entirely absent. It's a recognisable milieu to an English audience, whereas when those things are explored in America and Europe, it's alien. It's this familiarity that makes it interesting and what defines it as being British.



FF: What continues to draw storytellers and audiences to stories about revenge?


NM: There are archetypes and stories that go back many centuries that we're always returning to, and revenge is one of them. BULL is a primal example of that, yet you could see this exact same story presented in different locations and periods. Paul just roots it in a naturalism and tradition of British social realism.


It does feel like a story for the ancients and it seems humans are drawn to these same stories over and over again. The challenge is finding new ways to frame them so they feel contemporary and different, and that's what BULL manages to do.


FF: In what way does BULL find new ways to frame the familiar?


NM: It's very much of the now, of people on the fringes of society, at a time when people are very polarised, and large groups of society are entirely forgotten. As I say, it uses a fairly ancient theme of the return and revenge - the return of the avenging angel if you like, quite literally inside of that world. The contemporary setting is what gives it a freshness.


FF: The final scenes of HIGH PLAINS DRIFTER and BULL challenge our logic because we've watched the film in a certain context. It's an awkward thing to thrust upon the audience because it doesn't give them time to process. There’s some gamesmanship and trickery at play in both of these films.


NM: I suppose it sucker punches the audience a bit, in HIGH PLAINS DRIFTER and in BULL. I think that's the idea of it, to head spin you and send you out of the cinema in a slight daze, which I like. As an audience member I like that feeling of being staggered.


I remember when we were doing the film festivals for KILL LIST, at SXSW in Austin, they were calling the faces the audience were pulling on the way out, “The KILL LIST face; the KILL LIST stare.”



I like that sense that it’s almost unfair, or unjust on the audience to expose them to the ending they're not geared up for. It's a good effect, but I know for some people it's jarring. The ending of BULL has divided opinion, but I'm firmly in the yes camp [laughs].



Hopefully from my point-of-view, being involved in work that's trying to be a bit subversive or challenging, with a unique approach to filmmaking, that’s why I got into it. I feel very fortunate to be working with filmmakers who are attempting that.


BULL is released on Limited Edition Blu-Ray by Second Sight Films.


Paul Risker.


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