In 1974, hot-headed 19 year old Brit Michael Peterson (Tom Hardy) wants to make a name for himself and so, with a homemade sawn-off shotgun and a head full of dreams he attempts to rob a post office. He is swiftly apprehended and sentenced to 7 years in jail. But unable to control his violence Peterson stays behind bars for 34 years, 30 of which are spent in solitary confinement. During that time, Michael Petersen, the boy, fades away and 'Charles Bronson,' his superstar alter ego, takes over.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Filmmaker Nicolas Winding Refn uses cinematic tools to create a remarkable portrait of Michael Peterson and his alter ego Charles Bronson, a man of violent passions - and quirky character traits. The film echoes the stylistic music-driven texture-making of Stanley Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange with the smiling violence of Andrew Dominic's Chopper, and how the black humour of the film's subject is reminiscent of Chopper Read's.
And Tom Hardy does for Bronson what Eric Bana did for Chopper: he turns him inside out in a lavaflow of a performance. The film's tone, however, is very different; here, the craziness is larger, the darkness deeper, the humour deadlier, harder.
Wedded to violence from an early age, Michael is gradually swallowed up by the prison system, seemingly an environment that suits him, at least inasmuch as he likes to exert his form of brute force over any territory he occupies. I use the word wisely: he occupies any territory in which he exists, by sheer force. After being consigned to Broadmoor for the criminally insane, he is reclassified sane - just so they can get rid of him. Outside, this fighting machine keeps on fighting. He always wanted to be a celebrity - he finally became one: Britain's most famous prisoner.
Refn's portrait is a combination of Peterson/Bronson addressing the camera directly doco style - albeit with some surreal variations - some scenes on a stage where Bronson performs his story (often with stylised make up) for a vaguely seen black tie audience and re-enacted scenes. But even the scenes are one removed from reality - not that they aren't often graphically violent.
Gripping and visceral, ugly and beautiful, terrible and haunting, Bronson is quite brilliant.
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CAST: Tom Hardy, Matt King, Amanda Burton, Edward Bennett-Coles, Katy Barker, Kelly Adams, William Darke
PRODUCER: Daniel Hansford, Rupert Preston
DIRECTOR: Nicolas Winding Refn
SCRIPT: Brock Norman Brock
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Larry Smith
EDITOR: Matthew Newman
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Adrian Smith
RUNNING TIME: 92 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Madman
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: August 6, 2009