Sunday, September 27, 2009


Bronson follows the true story of Britain's most dangerous prisoner, Michael Peterson aka Charles Bronson. He was a man who just wanted to become famous, a man who wanted to make a name for himself, but his idea of fame and notoriety was found by being the baddest dude in the cell block. Well, more like the baddest dude in any cell block to be exact and Peterson had no problem achieving that status as he beat the shit out of anyone that he felt like at anytime he felt like. His biggest targets were often police officers and prison guards, but no one was ever really safe from his spontaneous attacks of violence. While doing some street fighting to earn a little cash during a very short-lived stint spent free and outside of prison, Peterson adopted the moniker Charles Bronson as his fighting name. There was very little time spent out of prison for Peterson, as he was in jail for 34 years, 30 of which was spent in solitary confinement. Oh...and he was originally sentenced to only 7 years! So that tells you something about his behavior right there.

Bronson is told in a breaking the fourth wall capacity, as it is Peterson himself that guides us on this violent journey through his life. Often you will be face to face with the man as he is on stage performing for an auditorium of fans with you - the viewer - being one of them. Sometimes with a narrative such as this, it can be considered lazy story telling, but in the case of Bronson, it is very fitting that he be telling his story in this way. "Bronson" is an egomaniac, and in his mind, there would be an auditorium of people cheering his every word and laughing at all of his jokes. It is also fitting, as Bronson would have you hear everything from his perspective and his point of view. Bronson is sort of presented like a stage play in how it is structured, with many of the set pieces almost set up by Bronson himself. He is the glue that ties up all of the scenes; he fills in the gaps if you will.

Each "set piece" is a balls out, visual tour de force of well-crafted shots. An array of camera movements, angles, and a multitude of colors are used to compliment the mood in each scene. These narrative and style choices are a major departure from Bronson's director, Nicolas Winding Refn's previous work, namely the Pusher trilogy. The Pusher trilogy is more akin to documentary film with an intimate and close up look at Denmark's underground crime world, where you feel like you are right there along with the characters in those movies. Though, as with Bronson, you are pretty much only following one singular character throughout the is one person's story. I love how the fight scenes are handled, and they aren't over the top as they are more realistic in how they are handled in a visual sense, but still very well done. There are a few times where some sass is tossed in to make the fighting scenes stand out over the average movie brawl, like one fight in particular, the hitting sounds are replaced by the sounds of lasers. Punches that sound like lasers must really hurt...

Bronson is a film that rarely comes around - not to say that there aren't plenty of amazing independent or foreign films floating the waters of the cult cinema wasteland, it's just Bronson has a bit more...pizzazz than your average cult film. Maybe the perfect way to describe Bronson would house cult film?! I think so, not sure if that would be the general consciences or not though. There is a film that is magnificent in Bronson, but there is also a part of the film that lay in a vat of off beat confusion and over doneness...too much artistic flair maybe? I have heard the word pretentious used to describe Bronson, and it is to a certain extent, however, the movie would probably not reach the highs it does with out a little bit of pretentiousness.

One thing that makes me think Bronson will be in my long-term movie rotation, is one great scene in particular that for some reason stuck with me. It happens when Peterson/Bronson is trapped in an insane asylum that was meant to keep him from feeding his hunger for prison notoriety through the use of violence. The scene itself is set to the awesome Pet Shop Boys song, It's A Sin (which is the tune found in the trailer) and there is a sort of dance party (like those Freddy ones?!) going on. With all of the mental patients grooving and moving, a drugged up Bronson is trying to figure out a way out of the asylum, but it isn’t gonna happen. I love the way it's shot, and I find it so telling of the character that even while being subdued by medications, he still has the thought in his mind to try get out of the asylum. He stumbles around almost like an infant, trying to get what he wants, and even his reactions to the orderlies are that of an infantile mind. The song itself just adds to what is an oddly haunting and entertaining scene, with some of the best dance moves by mental patients I have ever witnessed.

If one thing about Bronson is true, it's that I was completely captivated and gripped by the character of Michael Peterson/Charlie Bronson, with a performance by Tom Hardy that is simply mesmerizing, and proving the lack of credibility the Academy has. Hardy is perfect as Peterson/Bronson, and that is what makes Bronson fantastic. It's a make or break role and Hardy makes that shit all the way. I am most recently familiar with Hardy as Handsome Bob in the wonderful Guy Ritchie film, RocknRolla. Hardy was pretty good in that film too, but his role in Bronson could not be any more different, and he is almost unrecognizable as the films titular character. One of his more stand out moments is when he reenacts a conversation between himself and a nurse while on stage in front of the before mentioned audience...I won't go into detail, but he is phenomenal in what is a strange, yet interesting way to handle a portion of the film's story.

This character transforms from Peterson to Bronson, where by the end of the film there is almost no sign of the slightly more sensible Peterson left to be seen. This is all pulled off with Hardy's stellar performance, this transformation is also captured in a visual way with an array of stylistic, and artistic choices with the look of the character via things like nudity and paint used to cover his face and body. It really works well at the end of the film, where all of this comes together with the obvious choice Peterson makes in how he shall live the rest of his Michael Peterson, or Charles Bronson.

Of course there have been the comparisons to the Stanley Kubrick masterpiece, A Clockwork Orange, in which Bronson is referred to as that film for the 21st century. I'm sure many would argue that Bronson is nowhere near Kubrick's milestone film, but there are very few films that could be quite as comparable. I have sat with the images and characters of A Clockwork Orange for over 16 years and seen the film at least a couple dozen times, so we'll see where Bronson stands in another 10 or so years, before I can discredit it as not being a masterpiece along the lines of Clockwork. It's just way to soon. As I said, it is comparable in the intense stylistic imagery and the way the story is told right down to the great musical choices that are found throughout Bronson. Personally, I would call it A Clockwork Orange meets Hard Times, which incidentally stared Charles Bronson...the filmmakers of Bronson may use that blurb if necessary!

When watching the film a few days ago, I felt slightly disappointed in it at times, but really only during the second act of the movie where things get a bit confused and feel over thought. However, after having Bronson sit in my cranium for a few days, and even writing about it now, I know this film is more than worthy of multiple looks. There is so much intelligence and talent that is laid out before the viewer, and there will be a lot to appreciate and take out of this film over multiple viewings throughout my movie watching lifetime. In addition, I should add that my "copy" of Bronson kicked the bucket, and much to my anger, I could not watch the last 5 minutes of the film. I get the gist of what was going to happen, and I understand the point of the ending, but it is a finale that I am not happy to have missed as the film and character of Bronson are truly completed by this eruption of an ending. Therefore, I am reviewing this movie incomplete, but it does give me another excuse to watch it again.


  1. if you haven't already, check out miles' interview with refn... he goes into this film being autobiographical (mirroring his experiences as a director in a way?) as well as biographical.

    turned around so that the climactic action happens right off the bat then moves to a descent into madness

    i really need to see this

    nice review

  2. Thanks Loaf!
    I just listened to the interview today in fact. It was a great, and it was nice to hear some of the ideas behind Bronson and how Refn went backwards with the fast paced impact of the film being at the beginning.

    I jocked the film pretty hard, but it is one that benefits from a few days of thought, if I wrote the review right away, it would have had a slightly more negative slant. Needless to say, it is a great film that could be considered powerful at times, even with the issues it has. I would guess that some of those issues would be less so after multiple is certainly worth seeking out soon!

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