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May 26, 2015

Bronson (2008)
Director: Nicolas Winding Refn
Actors: Tom Hardy, Matt King, Jonathan Phillips

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Synopsis: Initially incarcerated for a relatively petty crime, Michael Peterson (Tom Hardy) goes on to become Britain’s most notorious prisoner over the subsequent thirty years due to his extremely anti-social and violent behaviour in jail under the moniker ‘Charles Bronson’.

Review: Nicolas Winding Refn is probably the least subtle filmmaker going, so I was more than a little amused when I read some of the negative reviews for his film, Bronson, which accuse it of a lack of biographical and psychological insight….Let me make clear that I rabidly dislike Winding Refn’s later films Drive and Only God Forgives, but I do feel the need to defend him here, because at no point is Bronson meant to be the conventional biopic that some people wanted, but it’s actually quite an intuitive work, taking Bronson’s publicity-courting profile as a base to conjure a lurid opera on the phenomenon of ‘Bronson’.

Thus to me, if the work is to be critiqued for anything, it’s not for frustrating a desire to present a coherent, fully diagnosed pathological history of Bronson – but because Winding Refn’s ‘ironic’ theatrical conceit of imagining Bronson’s life as a vaudeville show is a bit monotonous and one-dimensional. That said, ‘hats off’ to Tom Hardy for an outstanding, gutsy, tour de force of a performance in the title role. Not only does Hardy nail the intimidating physical aura of Bronson, but he completely understands the manic, anti-social bent too, and how Bronson was a man who simply could not conceive of a ‘normal’ life in the outside world versus his more natural habitat of prison (the sequence where his ageing parents take a completely disorientated Bronson back to their twee suburban home is a beautifully acted and filmed scene of pure farce). (May 2015)

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