Bronson Review4.03.09 # Review # 5 Comments
Director: Nicolas Winding Refn
Starring: Tom Hardy, Amanda Burton
Release Date: 13th March (UK), TBC Summer 2009 (US)
Charlie Bronson is the UK’s most notorious prisoner. He’s also the most expensive, having staged destructive rooftop protests, attacked prison staff and taken several hostages during his years inside. For a while the tabloids were obsessed with him, as his antics made great reading. Here’s a man who simply doesn’t understand how to keep his head down in prison – violence and stand-offs are all a game to break up the boredom.
Now comes the film of his life, where his aggression and mayhem are treated as something of an art form. Directed by Nicolas Winding Refn (the Pusher trilogy), the story begins with Bronson’s incarceration for a botched armed robbery (£26 the haul) then settles into his long prison life which has been extended time and again for crimes committed inside.
The movie is occasionally lacking in plot, hardly surprising as the real-life Bronson has spent 30 of his 34 years in solitary confinement, so this is a character piece that rests on the central performance. And with few supporting characters getting more than a look in, this is a one man show in every sense of the word. Thank goodness then that Tom Hardy hits it out of the park. It’s hard to believe this is the same actor who played Picard’s wimpy clone in Star Trek: Nemesis. He has bulked up to intimidating proportions and his performance as Bronson captures all the menace, humour, self-doubt and violent playfulness that anyone could sense watching the real man for a couple of minutes. It’s an amazing turn that, if there is any justice in the world, should lead to great things for Hardy.
The other element that really clicks here is the direction, which is heavily inspired by Kubrick, in the best way. It takes some balls to attempt to imitate Kubrick’s shooting style, but they largely pull it off and it was no surprise to find out afterwards that the director of photography worked with the man himself on Eyes Wide Shut.
The movie is a touch slow to get going, but once you get into Hardy’s performance it’s impossible to take your eyes off him. He’s a constantly-ticking time bomb of uncalled-for violence, with great comic timing. If you have any love at all for the likes of Clockwork Orange or Chopper, then see it.