Thursday, November 11, 2010


Directed by Nicolas Winding Refn.
2008. Rated R, 92 minutes.
Tom Hardy
Amanda Burton
Kelly Adams
Andrew Forbes
Jon House
Johnny Phillips
Matt King
James Lance

The life and times of Michael Peterson AKA Charles Bronson (Hardy). No, not THE Charles Bronson, star of such classics as Once Upon a Time in the West, Hard Times, Death Wish and its way too many sequels, so on and so forth. We’re talking England’s most notorious prisoner. He takes on the Bronson moniker during one of his rare stints in the free world as his underground street-fighting name and it sticks. True story. Really, this is based on a true story.

So far in his life, Charlie has spent 34 years in prison. We’re told that 30 of them have been spent in solitary confinement. His crimes on the outside hardly warrant such lengthy incarceration. What happens on the inside is what extends his stay. Those fo you familiar with sports radio and TV host Jim Rome will recognize the label “likes to fight guy.” That describes Bronson to a tee. He simply loves fighting. Often, he fights groups of prison guards all at once. Whenever he knows its about to go down, he gets naked and slathers himself in some sort of cream for some unexplained reason. Just as well, I’m not sure I really want to know why. Sometimes, Bronson fights other inmates because that’s the only way he knows to deal with a situation. He even kills one poor guy simply to get moved to a different facility. The scenes depicting all these fights are realistically brutal. As he should since he’s usually taking on half a dozen guys or more, Charlie ends up bloody and beaten on more than a couple occasions. Saying that he’s a hard-headed fellow is a massive understatement.

Bronson tells the story from its subject’s completely unapologetic point of view. It doesn’t try to present him as some sort of misunderstood soul. It barely falls shy of glorifying his lifestyle. What makes it an odd biopic is that it flat out refuses to analyze him or speculate on what made him that way. As a result, we simply watch him move from one act of violence to the next until 90 or so minutes pass and the credits roll. It feels like a pointless exercise. At the risk of spoiling it, I’ll put it this way: he doesn’t learn a lesson, get the girl or save the day. We don’t sympathize with or gain a deeper understanding of him and we don’t learn a lesson, either.

If there is a method to the madness, it is to take aim at and skewer the culture that makes celebrities of anyone willing to make a fool of themselves in public. We see it in Charlie’s monologues delivered on a stage during which he basks in the glory of his fame as his country’s most dangerous inmate. The problem is, the movie seems to strain to make a point and doesn’t quite do it effectively.

As pointless excercises go, this is an excellent one. The simple fact of the matter is that Tom Hardy is amazing in the title role. He gives a mesmerizing performance. He makes Bronson, both the character and the movie something you just can’t take your eyes off.

MY SCORE: 7.5/10

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