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Review: A troubled teen and a rodeo veteran team up in Texas set indie drama ‘Bull’

Rob Morgan in the movie 'Bull'
Rob Morgan in the movie “Bull.”
(Samuel Goldwyn Pictures)

The indie drama “Bull” is a fine example of what used to be called a “regional” film: a modestly scaled, character-driven motion picture where the particulars of the location matter more than the plot or the style. In this case, that place is Texas.

Amber Havard plays Kris, a teenage delinquent living with her grandma while her drug-dealing mother is in prison. When Kris and her friends trash her next-door neighbor Abe’s house, she avoids jail by becoming Abe’s assistant and companion and in the process learns about his life working at rodeos.

Rob Morgan plays Abe, who used to ride bulls but now just wrangles them, as a kind of rodeo clown — whenever he can take enough pills to quiet his aches and pains. Abe is part of a rarely recognized subculture of black rodeo riders and performers. He’s reluctant at first to become a mentor to some poor white girl who can’t stay out of trouble.

Director Annie Silverstein (who also co-wrote “Bull” with Johnny McAllister) avoids outsized drama or contrivance. The conflicts are grounded. Abe struggles with feeling irrelevant and forgotten on the rodeo circuit. Kris is low on cash and considers getting help from her druggie friends. The two Texans need each other’s company — and oversight — but mostly refuse to acknowledge it.

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The relative lack of “action” in “Bull” does mean the audience has to make more of an effort to engage with the film. But like the recent arthouse favorites “The Rider” and “Lean on Pete,” this movie has a rare sense of place. It preserves an entire world and the fragile people within it.

'Bull'

Not rated

Running time: 1 hour, 45 minutes

Playing: Available May 1 on VOD


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