BRONSON(director/writer: Nicolas Winding Refn; screenwriter: Brock Norman Brock; cinematographer: Larry Smith; editor: Matthew Newman; cast: Tom Hardy (Michael Peterson/Charles Bronson), Matt King (Paul Daniels), Amanda Burton (Mum), James Lance (Art Teacher), Hugh Ross (Uncle Jack), Katy Barker (Julie), Juliet Oldfield (Allison, Bronson’s unfathful lover), Jonny Phillips (Prison Governor); Runtime: 92; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Rupert Preston/Daniel Hansford; Magnolia Pictures; 2008-UK)
“Stylish kick ass sympathetic but revealing biopic of the notorious and pitiful British felon Michael Gordon Peterson.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
The talented 38-year-old Copenhagen cult filmmaker Nicolas Winding Refn (“Pusher”/”Bleeder”/”Fear X”) helms this stylish kick ass sympathetic but revealing biopic of the notorious and pitiful British felon Michael Gordon Peterson (given the handle of Death Wish actor Charles Bronson by a bare-knuckle boxing promoter), who has spent a large chunk of his adult life in solitary confinement, where he has managed to become a physical fitness expert and an award-winning poet and artist. Bronson (Tom Hardy) was arrested in 1974 at age 22, and sentenced to seven years in prison for armed robbery of a post office. Since then the anti-social career convict has spent 34 years in prison and only four of those years were not in solitary confinement (some misinformed do-gooders have signed a petition calling for his release because he never killed, raped or molested anyone–but after seeing this film I think anyone signing that petition could be viewed as daffy).
There’s not much to this tale exceptfor the powerful portrayal by Hardy of the brutish, muscular, volatile, bald, mustachioed, raging bull of a psychopath, who needs little provocation to beat up guards, fellow prisoners, and anybody else he encounters that rubs him the wrong way. The frightful monstrous man veers between giving a showy comical running monologue explaining his itch to be a celebrity and his inexplicable violent uncontrollable rages where he sometimes puts on body war paint for more effect.
The plotless pic is atmospheric, dynamic, aesthetic, brutally and comically cartoonish, and seemingly as happy as a pig rolling in slop when its anti-hero acts frighteningly as an insane brute. It seems like a follow-up to Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange, but with nothing to add intellectually it teeters on shoving in the viewer’s face that violence in our modern Western society is enjoyable as family entertainment as long as we’re out of harm’s way. I know I didn’t enjoy the violence, but was impressed by Refn’s ability to make such an unpleasant story into such a stunningly beautiful artistic looking film. It asks without trying to answer, What do we do with those whose art is violence?
REVIEWED ON 10/26/2009 GRADE: B
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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