‘Bull’ Review: Vengeance Is His

The British crime thriller “Bull” is named after a small-time gangster seeking vengeance, but it could be short for “bullet.” Compact, lethal and nearly unstoppable, Bull (Neil Maskell) hits his targets, one after another, even though he can look like a scruffy dad, which he also is. He’s on the war path against Norm (David Hayman, with a face of placid malice), his former boss, whose daughter, Gemma, he married. (They have a son.)

Bull was one of Norm’s heavies, until — as converging flashbacks reveal — Norm brought the hammer down on his son-in-law, years ago. Now Bull has returned, and the writer-director, Paul Andrew Williams, embraces this meat-and-potatoes (or bangers-and-mash) revenge story and its humble hard-man setting, while making visual asides to the lovely Kent countryside and a garish fair. Almost amusingly, Norm’s crew wear construction safety vests between brutal shakedowns.

Williams stages the story’s sometimes grisly violence with variations in tempo, methods and mood, though Bull harbors a special fondness for mutilating people’s hands. It’s a world away from the cool of “The Limey,” another story of retribution that comes to mind because of the editorial shuffling and an echo of that film’s “Tell him I’m coming!” line. Williams and Maskell dip more into the cauldron of Grand Guignol, turning a gunfire ambush into an unholy apparition through slow motion and silhouettes.

The film’s rejiggered timeline is a little hard to follow, but the climax swings for the fences and shows an unashamed verve for tale-telling that warms the cockles.

Rated R for gory payback by a gangster who has thought of little else. Running time: 1 hour 28 minutes. In theaters.

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