Directed by Nicolas Winding Refn
Highly stylized, yet never alienating, Bronson is one of the few recent biopics to create a captivating portrait of a volatile subject and leave no easy answers. Released in England in 2008, but only making its way to North American DVD now, after a short theatrical release, director/writer Nicolas Winding Refn and co-writer Norman Brock don't pretend to understand the psyche of Britain's most violent prisoner. Instead, Refn frames the film with the behemoth of rage known as Bronson performing for an imaginary audience, with his demented monologues reminiscent of Heath Ledger's Joker nihilism. In 1974 England, a young family man named Michael Peterson robs a local post office and is subsequently sentenced to seven years in prison for the $26.00 he stole. During his stint, Peterson becomes obsessed with making a name for himself with his only talent: fighting. He fights the guards, fellow prisoners and anyone he can get his hands on until he is inevitably beaten down, at which point he simmers, heals and immediately starts bludgeoning the next person he sees. This continues until his personality is taken over by his fighter ego, leading to his "professional" rechristening as Charles Bronson, after the Death Wish star. Tom Hardy fills out the character with not only an enormous physical presence, but also a zealous relish — not for the pain Bronson causes his victims, but for the sheer thrill of such violent, arbitrary action. The control and flair Hardy exhibits over the character is genuinely scary, because as charismatic and humorous as Hardy allows Bronson to seem, the audience never forgets his nightmarish lack of humanity. Bronson later grows to become an accomplished artist and poet, and even with this positive and constructive force in his life, the mystery of his motives remains. "You can't pin me down, mate," he claims near the film's end. The thought of such an indefinable character will haunt you long after.
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