124 minutes, Belgium, 2011, Subtitled, Colour, D-Cinema

Memorable as the conflicted bare-knuckle fighter in Jacques Audiard’s Rust and Bone, star-in-the-making Matthias Schoenaerts is arguably even more remarkable in this earlier offering from his native Belgium. In the West Flanders farming community, bristling machismo manifests itself in treating cattle with illegal hormones to better the opposition, but Schoenaerts’ brooding labourer is on heavy steroids too, and looks like a man ready to explode at any moment. His troubled past gives him good reason to bear a grudge against the world, and it’s about to come calling again when a childhood friend now working as a police informer unwittingly entangles him in the ongoing investigation into the local ‘hormone mafia’.

Director Michael R. Roskam’s handling of the procedural element could be punchier, but his film is a marvellous showcase for Schoenaerts, who bulked up considerably for the role, and delivers a performance worthy of the young De Niro, as an anguished soul trapped in a body that’s a self-destructive parody of manliness. (Notes By Trevor Johnston.)

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