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BRONSON (2008)

JUNE 29, 2014

Director Nicolas Winding Refn can be an acquired taste. I, myself, feel ambivalent about his body of work. I liked DRIVE (2011) and was intrigued (but ultimately unsatisfied) by VALHALLA RISING (2009) but pretty much loathed ONLY GOD FORGIVES (2013). 


I’ll give him this though, he certainly has a vision and a voice and that’s all I ask for in a filmmaker. Which brings me to BRONSON. With a tour-de-force career-making performance by Tom Hardy, it is a wild ride that grabs you from the first frame and drags you by the throat until its conclusion. 


Based on the real-life experiences of UK prisoner Michael Peterson, the film shows his evolution from a reckless youth to Britain’s most dangerous criminal. Along the way he changes his name to “Charlie Bronson” in an attempt to gain fame, for that is all he ever wanted. 


In Charlie’s 34 years in prison, 30 of them were spent in solitary confinement because of his absurdly violent tendencies. What’s even more peculiar is that he never actually killed anyone, so even though it’s hard to sympathize with him, at least he doesn’t have blood on his hands. 


The movie itself is a bat-shit crazy as the man it portrays. At his core, Charlie is a frustrated artist in search of a way to express his inner passions. Unfortunately instead of oils and brush, extreme violence is his canvas of choice. 


The only film I can compare BRONSON to is Stanley Kubrick’s A CLOCKWORK ORANGE (1971) and there are certain similarities, but those play as more homage than outright theft. 


Having seen the film now twice, I am continually impressed with how mesmerizing it is mostly due to Hardy. I can’t speak more highly of his performance. He embodies the role and plays to the rafters. 


Truly avant-garde cinema, if you can stomach the language (which there is a lot) and the violence (which there is more than a lot) than BRONSON is worth doing time with. I will certainly be paying it another visit sometime in the near future.