“ Genre: Drama / Suitable for 18 years and over / Director: Nicolas Winding Refn / Actors: Matt King, Edward Bennett-Coles, James Lance, Tom Hardy, Anna Griffin ... / DVD released 2009-06-15 at E1 Films / Features of the DVD: PAL „
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The film industry has long been obsessed with crime and criminals, if they can be based on real-life criminals, all the better. Such films (whether real-life or fictional) have sometimes been accused of glamourizing crime (The Sting, Buster) - an accusation that couldn't really be levelled against the often brutal Bronson. Unlike other crime films, though, Bronson takes a decidedly left-field approach to its subject matter.
The film follows Michael Peterson, a young man sentenced to seven years in prison for armed robbery of a post office. Once inside, he fashions a new image for himself, takes the name Charles Bronson and sets about becoming Britain's most violent and notorious criminal, spending over 30 years in solitary confinement.
The writers of Bronson have taken a really odd decision. Rather than providing a straightforward biopic of Bronson and how he became so notorious it takes a rather more surreal turn. Sequences of "Bronson" standing on stage relating his story to a fascinated audience in a one-man show are contrasted with more traditional scenes of Bronson's experiences in prison and showing some of the brief and brutal violence to which he was both subjected and inflicted on others. There's even an animated passage, for goodness sake! This should not work. The clash of styles should be horrible.
And yet, somehow, it does work. The oddly clashing styles somehow meld together to form a far more coherent film than they have any right to. You sit there open-mouthed at the audacity of the writers and director in producing something so surreal, whilst at the same time applauding them for somehow managing to get it to work. Bronson should be a complete disaster, a car crash of a film. Yet as you watch it, you find yourself becoming more and more fascinated both with the story itself and wondering what on earth the writers are going to come up with next.
An even odder decision is taken with the tone of the film. It's the life of a violent criminal presented as a sort of surreal comedy. Again, this should destroy the film, and yet everyone involved manages to find a balance that works. The audience buys into it, too. You find yourself laughing at some very inappropriate things and then feel slightly guilty for doing so. But you can't help it: Bronson IS funny. The comedy works because it's such a deep black humour that it (sort of) fits in with the rest of the film, whilst also acting as a strong counterpoint to the explicit violence.
You will hate every moment if you are easily offended, since Bronson almost seems to go out of its way to offend as many people as possible. There's extremely strong language throughout, full frontal male nudity and acts of extreme violence and aggression. All of these are perfectly legitimate and justified within the context of the film (you wouldn't expect hardened criminals to say "Goodness me, that is a bit of a bore"), but that doesn't stop them from being offensive.
There's no question where the real appeal of Bronson lies, though: Tom Hardy's performance as the title character. I've little doubt that it was this role that snagged him the role of Bane in The Dark Knight Rises as he showed beyond all doubt that he can bulk up and do menacing. Hardy is mesmerising delivering a stunning performance that will have you riveted to the screen. The script is demanding, requiring Hardy to be menacing, violent, funny, camp and even slightly tragic at various points. He takes them all in his stride, as convincing as a violent criminal as he is camping it up in the theatre based scenes. His Bronson is both scary and pathetically puffed up with his own self-importance. Of course, how much resemblance there is to the real person is debatable; but given the whole film's relationship to reality is deeply suspect, this is not really an issue.
There are a couple of occasions where Hardy does overcook things slightly, tipping over from camp into hammy, as well as a few moments when satire and parody go too far and become more of a spoof. There were a also a couple of slightly odd moments where Tom Hardy seemed to be channelling Bronson via Matt Lucas, leaving the slightly odd sensation that you had temporarily slipped into a Little Britain sketch!
Elsewhere, the supporting cast barely get a look in and struggle to make much of a mark. Given the film's rather fractured approach to story-telling, it can be rather difficult to work out who some of these characters are, or where they came from. Bronson doesn't tell a consistent, logical (or even necessarily true) story and in certain sequences, you can feel as though you have been dumped in the middle of a story without any knowledge of what has happened up to that point. The force of Hardy's acting, though, means the film pulls it off.
By the end, you will be no wiser about the real Charles Bronson than you were at the beginning. If you're a fan of true crime or criminal biopics, then you're going to have to look elsewhere for your kicks. If you are looking for an odd, off-beat, irreverent and disturbingly amusing film, then Bronson is well worth picking up. Better still, because it divides people so much, you can often spot copies going dirt cheap in second hand shops - giving you the chance to see if you like it for yourself with only minimal financial risk
Director: Nicholas Winding Refn
Running time: approx. 92 minutes
(c) Copyright SWSt 2013
There is a man in a cage. Naked, covered in filth and blood, circling, fists ready. "I always knew I was made for better things. I had a calling." The skin-headed, straight-faced Bronson (Tom Hardy) tells us, direct to camera. The gates open, and riot police pile into the tiny cell. The naked man launches himself into battle. He isn't trying to escape, he's fighting because he has anger and violence built into him, and he sees himself as an artist of mayhem.
Anyone going into Bronson expecting another British Guy Ritchie-esque Right Old Cockney Barrel of Monkeys will be suitably devastated by Danish helmer Nicolas Winding Refn's first full UK feature, an incendiary, exhilarating character study of Britain's most infamous inmate, Michael Peterson/Charles Bronson.
A petty crook who copped a seven-year stretch for holding up a post office with a sawn-off shotgun, one-man-riot Bronson brawled his way to thirty-four years inside, thirty of them in solitary confinement.
Bronson didn't have the usual back story of cinema psychos. He had an ordinary upbringing in a middle class family, grew up in suburban boredom of 70's Britain. He wasn't abused or deprived, just had a restless urge to throw himself against the system. Once inside, Bronson admits he loves it - "It was finally a place where I could sharpen my tools."
A Clockwork Orange is the most obvious antecedent of Bronson. Like Burgess' Alex, Bronson sees violence as freedom of expression, and the movie generates its friction by how the authorities seek to contain the brutality within a man.
Unlike A Clockwork Orange, there is no philosophical McGuffin. A Clockwork Orange asked, what is more evil? A man performing evil acts, or a society depriving that individual of the free will to commit them?
Based on a true story, Bronson tests the sensibilities of even the wooliest liberal: If you have a man who unrepentantly terrorizes everyone who crosses his path, even those who place their faith and trust in him, what can you do but lock him in a cage?
Tom Hardy portrays Bronson in an electrifying, balls out (literally) performance, easily as good as Malcolm McDowall in Orange, or Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight.
I mention these characters because Bronson falls into the same category of intellectual-psycho movies, which perform a valuable service to society.
A Clockwork Orange dared the viewer to paraphrase Evelyn Beatrice Hall's famous quote: "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it."
Heath Ledger's Joker, with Gotham City trembling in his nihilistic grasp, forced the protagonists and citizens to make agonizing moral decisions.
In between, we can talk about Seven's John Doe (Kevin Spacey), digging up the original deadly sins to hold a mirror to a morally bankrupt, alienated society. Hannibal Lecter originally depicted cold, calculating evil, but as the series ran, he eventually became a kind of super-antihero with impeccable manners, punishing those with insufficient intellect or etiquette.
It is also worth mentioning Jigsaw from the Saw franchise, whose grimy labyrinths of fiendish death threw his banal victims into a high-stress nightmare of live-or-die existential crisis.
No matter how depraved or despicable these intellectual psychos get, their acts are reassuring. So many real life crimes are grubby and meaningless, it at least lifts our battered spirits to imagine the killer might have a loftier purpose for his crimes.
Bronson, although fitting the category, is more problematic. Bronson doesn't know what he wants. He strives to become Britain's most violent criminal, is dismissed as Britain's most costly, and is released.
On the outside, he is lost, and after a short-lived career of bare-knuckle fighting, gets banged up again. The last third of the movie focuses on Bronson's desires.
After taking a prison librarian hostage, he's passed a phone. The governor patiently asks him what he wants. He's perplexed. "What have you got?"
The response echoes Brando's famous line in The Wild One - "Hey Johnny, what are you rebelling against?" Johnny: "Whaddya Got?"
There is no answer to Bronson, and it thrives on the viewer's desire for the maniacal and destructive. Hardy makes this a cause worth backing, creating a character so vibrantly alive and strangely charming that it's hard not to root for him as he launches himself into another self-provoked battle he can't win.
Apart from the central theme as violence as an art form or freedom of expression, Bronson shares other similarities to Kubrick's Clockwork Orange. Classical music provides the soundtrack for most of the film's violent scenes, and Larry Smith's cinematography does a grand job of emulating Kubrick's chilly gaze with wit and panache.
There are some loose ends, some questions. The young Peterson, before the post office stand up, has a missus and kid, which are never mentioned again. His artistic temperament drifts him into artistic circles of a different kind - the three characters he doesn't beat up on sight range from camp to outright queer. Is the film trying to steer us towards deducing repressed homosexual tendencies?
Scenes involving Bronson's foppish uncle recall the territory of another unreconstructed cinema nutjob, Frank Booth (Dennis Hopper) in Blue Velvet, whose eye-popping rage subdues somewhat in the environs of "suave f*cker" Ben's (Dean Stockwell) retro 50's apartment.
In the end, Bronson is the victim of his own behaviour, the joke is on him, which ultimately makes him a comical figure. Every prison movie has a governor as nemesis for the hero or antihero, from Porridge through to Runaway Train. It's rare to find one we agree with, but it's hard not to nod with Jonathan Phillip's sneering guv when he witheringly says: "You're ridiculous."
Although you might not want to say it to his face, Bronson is ridiculous. For all his desire for fame and attention, he ends up as Britain's most self-defeating prisoner. If violence is his art, it's a losing vocation, because a show isn't anything without an audience. Thirty years in solitary confinement means a lot of empty seats.
I was really looking forward to this film, it seemed just like my cup of tea and I was interested to find out more about the story of Charles Bronson. However it somehow didn't quite hit the mark.
I would explain the storyline but the point is that I didn't feel it portrayed the story very well at all!
The main problem was that it was trying to be too arty and clever and somehow whilst doing that it lost track of telling the story properly. It told a little about Bronson's upbringing and showed a few of his violent episodes and times in prison, but considering this man spent something like 34 years of his life in prison and 28 of those in solitary I couldn't help feeling it wasn't telling the full story. There must be so much more to this man than what is portrayed in this film, his life must have been very eventful, and yet this just sort of summarised a few main points and then padded it out with a strange stage act with 'Bronson' acting the clown.
I really wanted to find out his story and I really felt like I hadn't. Think I will read his book instead!
Charlie Bronson (Tom Hardy) is the "fighting name" taken from the famous action actor given to "Britain's most famous prisoner". Spending 34 years of his life inside all of the UK's most notorious institutions, including Broadmoor's hospital for the criminally insane, and 30 of those years in solitary confinement, Bronson's life has been one of constant violent conflict with his fellow man. In surreal asides, Bronson guides us through his unique life - from relatively normal beginnings until his conviction for armed robbery and then his consistent battles with authorities, his career as an illegal bare-knuckle fighter, his inevitable return to prison and even his venture into art...
Bronson will go down in British history as a representative of a certain type of eccentricity. England in particular often offers forth mutant celebrities that do more than rebel against a certain idea; they just seem to refuse to conform to anything. They are pure agents of chaos. The portrayal of Bronson in Nicholas Winding Refn's film fits this category perfectly. In fact, it would appear to be the only pigeonhole you could put the character in, as he ardently rebels against any institution that tries to contain him - from school to marriage to prison to even the apparent freedom of art. However, these apparent failures seem to matter little to the film's main protagonist. He is an apparent pre-90s violent parody of the "fame for fame's sake" generation. From the film's beginning he states that his single life ambition is to be famous and then he goes to explain that he acknowledged early on he wasn't going to acquire this notoriety through conventional means. He narrates and discusses his story from a stage in the style of a one person avant-garde performance. These come in the form of brief cutaways, symbolizing the way Bronson sees his grand performance.
This is the story of the ultimate attention seeker. By laying the man's words and ideas bare for everyone to hear and see we are left to draw our own conclusions. Bronson is presented as an enigma. You are forced to have some sympathy for him, as everything is told from his point of view, but this doesn't stop you from questioning the very weird ideas and principles he seems to live his life. Even the most liberal minded art fan will have to seriously question whether mainly motiveless acts of violence in prison really does constitute a worthwhile performance. Certainly Bronson's actual art - the various schoolboy style cartoons that academics regularly seem to pay too much attention to - was never going to light up the Tate Gallery on its own merits. But does greasing up your naked body with butter in order to make your fight with prison warders really offer anything beyond a darkly humorous anecdote?
The story of an incorrigible force of destruction that refuses to be tamed or cured begs some degree of superficial comparison with James Woods' depiction of the real-life American multiple murderer, Carl Panzram in "Killer: A Journal of Murder". This particular film was based on the biography of the same name written by Panzram's one friend, the prison guard Henry Lesser. Panzram was a figure motivated by rage and contempt for his fellow humans and life itself. However, Tim Metcalfe's movie does much to persuade us that his subject's upbringing, his childhood abuse and the institutions that contained him are at least partly responsible for his life of crime. Obviously we get no such argument for Bronson. Instead he is more fundamentally comparable with the fictional character, Heathcliffe, from Emily Bronte's novel "Wuthering Heights". Nicholas Refn paints all other characters as one dimensional and bland or insincere and superficial in contrast to the larger-than-life Bronson. This is so on the nose that one wonders why Refn didn't just have Charlie Bronson as the only character painted in colour and everyone else in the same shade of grey. However, it does prompt the film's most significant question regarding what allows a person to become famous. Given our post-Big Brother-reality-TV society, it will be a question that we will no doubt hear asked again.
I cannot see how a better film could have been made about Charlie Bronson. This doesn't make "Bronson" the movie an outstanding example of cinema art; although it does make it the best example of art so far drawn from the rather quite sad life of "Britain's most famous prisoner".
This is a review of the film and region 2 DVD presentation.
Charles Bronson (born Michael Peterson) is the UK's most infamous and violent prisoner. Imprisoned in 1974 for armed robbery, he has gone on to spend 36 years behind bars, save for a short period of 69 days in 1988, when he was released, only to re-offend in another robbery.
Bronson is a biopic of the man's life, primarily from the early 1970s through the the 1980s, depicting some of the key events in that period, including his time spent as a bare knuckle fighter and several notable (and notorious) events that took place behind bars. Told as a mixture of first person narrative, third person reconstruction and fantasy drama, the film attempts to take a profound look at the man behind the myth.
It's difficult to know where to start with a film like Bronson. Narratively, it's almost one of the least interesting films available. Ostensibly the tale of someone who is clearly a bit bonkers, it's amazing how an 89-minute film can be crafted from 'not an awful lot going on really'. In many directors' hands, it would almost certainly have been a flop. But a combination of artful, imaginative direction, skilful and innovative storytelling and one of the most astounding performances you'll ever see ensure that Bronson is actually at times a rather remarkable film.
The director (who also directed the Pusher trilogy and the dreadful Valhalla Rising) has crafted a film filled with different ways of telling a story. There are segments of the real world, normally narrated by the lead character as he explains key events such as his childhood. Then there is the fantasy world, a theatre stage complete with a devoted audience, hanging on Bronson's every word as he performs and narrates his way creatively through various incidents and events. It's very artfully done. An explosive combination of music (both classical and contemporary) accompanies much of the action, largely because dialogue simply wouldn't serve any purpose. Much of it is rather surreal. It's difficult to say whether it's being played for laughs or just to be quirky, but amidst the blood and the violence, there's a strange, almost childish vein of humour, no more so than when Bronson finds his more artistic self later on in the film and a montage of strange (and slightly disturbing) animations accompany his stroll across the prison compound.
It's often a deeply unrewarding experience. In nearly ninety minutes of running time, it's astounding just how little we actually learn about the man. We discover that he came from respectable roots and had a reasonably normal childhood, but then as he moved into adulthood he just seemed to go bonkers. It was as though the world was too calm and simple for him. He needed conflict and violence everywhere he went and it was no surprise that before long it all caught up with him. But the frustrating thing about the whole film is that the audience will never really understand why. Here is a man who has spent the best part of thirty-five years in prison (most of that in solitary confinement) for no reason other than he wants to be famous. Arguably the film leaves more questions than answers and, as biopics go, really isn't very rewarding at all. Certain factual elements of Bronson's life are retained here (his short-lived first marriage, his role in prison riots, his habit of taking people hostage) but all the way through and after you just find yourself scratching your head and asking yourself why.
What helps is that the director and writers manage to put the whole thing together with an over-riding sense of good humour. That's not to say that Bronson is immediately comical, but they make it very difficult not to like him. His refusal to observe authority and to conform in any way is actually vaguely refreshing and when you remember that the only reason that his sentence keeps being extended is because of what he has done 'inside' the prison, you don't really get the feeling that he's a bad person. It would have been easy to make a dark, very psychological drama here, but somehow Nicola Winding Refn has actually created something of a hero. This, of course, closely emulates Bronson's real life status, where he never finds himself short of admirers, despite the fact that he spends most of his time locked up in a cage.
This isn't, however, a film for traditionalists. This isn't a film to be watched if you're looking forward to a good old-fashioned yarn with such luxuries as a start, middle and end. It's actually a rather random exercise and the lack of any cohesive structure won't appeal to everyone. Whilst the chronology is accurate and consistent, the style of filmmaking hops about slightly clumsily, notably towards the end, where earlier styles and flourishes are dispensed with for no apparent reason. The rather chaotic, almost anarchistic feel to the film has inevitably drawn comparisons to Stanley Kubrick's 'A Clockwork Orange' but these are two very different beasts. Orange was chaotic but purposeful whereas Bronson seems to thrive on the pointlessness of the lead character's life, wasted behind bars after countless unnecessary altercations with the authorities.
The director states clearly that he had no social or political motivation in making this film. His view was that the original script 'wasn't very good' and he needed to understand what he could do with the project. In some ways, Bronson *might* have been a stronger movie had the director and writers had a clearer motivation for making it. The good news is, therefore, that their leading man had a very strong motivation for making this film - and that's the main reason it's still quite remarkable.
British actor Tom Hardy has seen an increasing profile in a number of recent movies including RockNRolla and the TV adaptation of Martina Cole's The Take, but it will always be Bronson that is seen as the film that propelled him into the A list. His portrayal of Charlie Bronson is astounding. Indeed, the DVD cover displays a quote from Jonathan Ross that he is 'mesmerising' and I can't think of a more appropriate description. The relatively slim actor piled on three stone in the space of five weeks for the role, training intensively to develop a brawler's build, and his transformation is up there with Christian Bale's emaciation in The Machinist in terms of being astounding.
But it's not just the amazing physical transformation that commands attention (nor even the fact that he continually goes full frontal naked.) It's simply the fact that he develops the absolute presence of the man himself. On the DVD, there's an audio introduction recorded with the real Charlie Bronson and when you compare this to Hardy's dialogue in the film, it's superbly accurate. Indeed, Bronson's family and friends (consulted as part of the filmmaking process) were said to be delighted with the results and the accuracy of Hardy's performance. Hardy himself has admitted to a slightly unhealthy interest in Bronson's life but that translates enormously well onto the big screen, where his portrayal is an obvious labour of life. The depth and range of Hardy's performance is staggering - comical, heart-wrenching, humorous, terrifying - he seems to cover every facet of the mysterious man's personality and whilst there is seldom that much actually going on, his performance alone is enough to keep you watching.
With such a powerhouse central performance, it's unsurprising that pretty much everybody else is eclipsed but there are some great cameos. In Matt King's case, it's a slight shame there isn't more room to shine, but his support role as Bronson's creepy prison friend Paul is spot on. He's blessed with a couple of killer one-liners, and a camp-yet-sinister voice that'll make your flesh crawl. Hugh Ross gives him a run for his money in the 'creepy' stakes as Bronson's crooked Uncle Jack and James lance is characteristically slimy as Phil the art teacher. It's interesting that in such a masculine film, all the men around Bronson are actually quite camp. But most bizarrely of all, there's a brief cameo from Amanda (Silent Witness) Burton as Bronson's mum, even though you'll need your wits about you to spot it.
The film makes the transition onto DVD reasonably well, although some may mistake some of the effects as attributable to bad transfer, rather than being deliberate. The gritty picture quality lends the film a deliberate pseudo-documentary style, that also ages the picture appropriately for its setting and the contrast between the prison scenes and the sharper, stage-set scenes work very well here. The disc comes with two audio set-ups - Dolby surround 5.1 and stereo 2.0. The latter works well in terms of sheer power, but the surround sound gives the film a more inclusive feel, particularly when the 80s soundtrack is playing (the Pet Shops Boys' classic It's A Sin sounds noticeably different on surround, for example). That aside, the surround sound is used to a particularly great extent, except perhaps (again) during the stage-set scenes, where you get a better feeling of being within the audience.
Audio commentary - this comprises an interview with the director, which gives it a different format to the sort of thing you'd normally find in a commentary. It's quite intense; there aren't many laughs here, but it's far more insightful and has a much broader scope than your average DVD commentary.
Making Of - the making of documentary could make a reasonable substitute for the commentary for those with less interest or less time to spend ploughing through. Again, it's relatively serious, but nicely segmented into different chapters and offers some creative insights. It's not the usual kind of promotional tool either, so it's not stuffed with sycophantic black slapping (although there is some praise going on).
Audio Introduction from Charles Bronson - at around fifteen minutes, this is probably too long for the casual viewer/listener, but is quite a remarkable feature, given that you can actually listen to the person about whom the film is made. It also enables you to marvel at how closely Tom Hardy was able to mimic the real Bronson's voice, although some of it is barely decipherable.
Tom Hardy - Building The Body - a short feature showing Hardy and his personal trainer talking about how he bulked up for the role. It's not massively insightful but it's interesting enough and worth watching in its own right simply to ogle Tom Hardy's body (sorry).
TV Spots/Teaser Trailer - three short teasers/trailers that were used on TV - alongside the other extras, these seem utterly pointless. There's also a trailer for the director's next film, Valhalla Rising (which was yet to be released when this was issued on DVD. Let me save you some time with that one - don't bother. It's awful.)
Bronson is a bit of a mixed bag but there's an awful lot to admire here. The director's quirky visual style means that there is seldom a dull moment and he's definitely to be admired for not making a typical 'prison' film. The lack of manageable structure will make this a turn off to some, but the amazing central performance alone is probably enough to make this an essential selection, even if you only need to watch it once.
I was intrigued by the movie Bronson, though if I'm honest I had never heard anything about this 'infamous' prisoner. The trailers for it looked quite good and it was being compared to the likes of Clockwork Orange, which although a very strange and violent film was one that I enjoyed watching first time round. Therefore I decided to give Bronson a try via Blinkbox, where I rented it for £2.00
Charles Bronson is supposedly Britain's most expensive prisoner. This film begins right from the start from when he was born and named Michael Peterson to a relatively normal family. It follows his change in to a teenager when you start to see his violent streak and this streak continues in to his adulthood. After getting married and having a child, Bronson (played by Tom Hardy) decides that to get his star on the walk of fame he needs to be more interesting. He therefore robs a post office and comes away with a relatively small amount of money. However, her gets caught and begins his infamous life in prison (which is where he is to this day).
Initially Bronson is given seven years but his violent and abusive behaviour keeps him inside a lot longer, often in solitary confinement. Just in case that's not sounding very interesting so far as Bronson is 'just' in jail, he is actually released for a period of 65 days. His time on the outside does offer up some fairly amusing moments. During this time you see him begin his career as a bare knuckle boxer and get his stage name of 'Bronson' before ultimately landing himself back in jail again. Between different scenes from his life Bronson appears on a stage before an audience explaining different parts of his life. This is where Tom Hardy gets to shine playing the crazy Bronson who doesn't seem to ever give too much away but laps up the attention of his own show.
The most harrowing line said by Bronson for me were the very first lines of the film aimed towards his stage audience, 'my name is Charles Bronson and all my life I've wanted to be famous.' If this truly is the case, then I feel like I've helped him on his way just by watching this film. What's even worse than that is that after watching this film I'm even more intrigued about Bronson (probably because the film doesn't give too much away about his character) and am even considering purchasing one of his books to find out more about the man who has spent so much of his life in solitary confinement. The film covers such a wide aspect of his life in an hour and a half but you never really understand what makes him tick and therefore what has made him the man he is.
The problem for me with this film is that although a very good film you can't help but feel that you shouldn't be watching it. It feels that by watching the film you're helping Bronson and therefore helping the general image of violence, in a way almost condoning it. I came away from the film intrigued about Bronson but also questioning our own justice system. If for example Bronson had been American, would he have been allowed to get away with all that he did? Or by now would he have been put on death row and had a lethal injection, possibly saving the taxpayer millions of pounds?
If you don't mind a lot of violence and some nudity then I definitely recommend Bronson, as Hardy who plays him does a superb job. It's a very good film and will definitely get your brain cells thinking. At the moment you can purchase Bronson for around £6.00 on Amazon and although I rented this movie because I wasn't too sure about it, I will definitely be adding this to my DVD collection.
Rated - R
Rotten Tomatoes - 78%
Metacritic - 71%
Imdb.com - 67%
There are two Charlie Bronson's, ones legacy nowhere near as famous as the other, especially after this oddity of a movie on the one who didn't do the Death Wish movies. The other Charlie Bronson was the Hollywood actor, of course, the one that made Michael Winner famous, whereas this rather low key biopic is about the notorious prisoner who earned that notoriety by setting out to be Britain's most violent prisoner with that deed pole name change from Michael Gordon Petersen, which begs the question should we be promoting that psychotic ego by further glamorising it in a movie? The second most violent prisoner in Britain now knows what he or she needs to do to get a film made about them! What would be fun is to get this guy to cook for Michael Winner and see what happens when Michael slag's him off. I think I know where he would stuff Michael Winners Star Award!
The British Prison Officers' Association were not happy at all when the film's London premiere was prefaced with a recording by Charles Bronson himself, recorded at HMP Wakefield, where he stated: "I'm proud of this film, because if I drop dead tonight, then I live on. I make no bones about it; I really was... a horrible, violent, nasty man. I'm not proud of it, but I'm not ashamed of it either... See you at the Oscars." It is an illegal in the UK to make unauthorized recordings of prison inmates and for them to profit from their crimes. One or two of those moaning officers no doubt had their heads cracked by this lunatic, as did the crack his.
Jason Statham was originally cast to play Bronson but scheduling conflicts saw the gig go to jobbing actor Tom Hardy, who put on three stones of muscle to play the role. Hardy met Bronson on several occasions to get a feel for the part and said it was an intimidating experience. His bravery has seen the films gross earn a paltry £1.4 million pounds from its limited film and DVD release.
Tom Hardy ... Charles Bronson
Matt King ... Paul
Kelly Adams ... Irene
Katy Barker ... Julie
Edward Bennett-Coles ... Brian
Amanda Burton ... Mum
William Darke ... Charles Bronson - Age 13
Andrew Forbes ... Joe Peterson
Luton schoolboy Michael Peterson (William Darke) is a naughty boy and already showing signs of extreme violence that will shape is delinquent life of crime, let alone putting his mom at her wits end (Amanda Burton) by beating up all the kids and torching the odd school at weekends. In his early 20s he shacks up with local girl (Katy Barker) but soon committing serious crime to make ends meet, getting seven years for knocking off post offices. Inside he earns a reputation for attacking wardens and prison guards and soon on the roof of various scrubs seeking attention in his mission to be Britain's most notorious villain.
Released back into society if just to stop him making the prison service look ridiculous he tries his hand at some bare knuckle fighting and trying to win the heart of local girl (Kelly Adams). But after robbing a jewellery store to get her an engagement ring he is soon back in nick and taking on authority once again. But he meets his match when it's decided to lock him up in Broadmoor and is soon heavily sedated. But with every move to a new prison comes an opportunity to be more notorious, the fame he has always sort.
The biggest problem with this is Tom Hardy doesn't make the role his own, effectively playing a parody of Bronson as the cliché psychotic, which although Bronson probably is, Hardy's version is like what you would think a psycho would be like, only because you see that version on telly and in movies. I much preferred Ben Kingsley's unhinged enforcer in Sexy Beast or Paddy Considine in Dead Mans Shoes. You do wonder if Hardy held back to avoid a hiding from some of Brunson's mates who cameo in the film and appear on the DVD extras.
Saying that the film was all very fine and imaginatively shot and skilfully put together with enough creativity to distract you from the obvious fact that most of the film is set in various boring prison cells. I quite liked the director's touch of the fantasy scenes where Bronson, dressed as a clown, tells his story to a crowd in a theatre to express his need to be someone, and also the way the film always remains fresh throughout, his obvious psychosis expressed through animation and cartoon in live action sequences at all the right times. But it's not that interesting and for all its efforts the Bronson character is ultimately not that engaging and certainly not worth the time and effort for a biopic, no doubt the movie part-funded by some colourful characters looking to get rid of some iffy tenners. The film just doesn't have that something a good biopic needs to make you interested in what is an odious loser. Why should we care about his guy or the prison guys who quite rightfully beat him to a pulp at every chance?
= = = = Special Features = = = =
-The Making Of Bronson-
The real man doesn't appear here as he is currently in prison, of course, his 39th year of incarceration. There are some rather shifty guys in sunglasses who talk on his behalf. The director, the wonderfully named 'Nicolas Winding Refn', tried to convince us he had editorial control but it didn't look that way.
-Charles Bronson: An audio introduction-
The real Bronson offers a grainy audio tape on proceedings which you presume was one of the methods of information used to hone the film.
after reading the book [which is very different from the film!] and researching 'Bronson' on the internet, i then watched the film...
i had wanted to watch it to see if it could come anywhere close to visually portraying the intensity that you get from the book, which is in bronsons own words. and although i think the film is very artistic in parts, and very well shot, i dont think it comes close to the book. there are also a lot of things not in the film, that i felt were a very important part of the book.
tom hardy however is BRILLIANT in it. i am a fan of his since seeing him in 'The Take' and i think he plays the part of Bronson as well as anyone could and he has to undertake a massive pysical transformation in order to 'bulk up' and play the part of bronson accurately.
The film Bronson is based upon the lifeof a career criminal and a man dubbed the most dangerous man in jail, he changed his name to Charles Bronson by deed poll to add to the foklore surrounding his behaviour and love of violence.
The subject matter for this film is both interesting and repulsive at the same time, naturally being based on his own story some of tehdetails may be looked at through rose tinted glasses and some truths papered over but it does make for an interesting viewing experience however some of the scenes are quite darkly shot which was a slight annouyance as things were hard to see.
In all Bronson has spent the best part of 35 years in jail and as a high risk prisoner who has added to his sentence due to attacks on prisoners and guards alike he is constantlly moved from prison to prison. The role of Bronson is played by Tom Hardy who also provides the narration, it is an impressive performance from Harvey who really makes an effort to get under the skin of the character.
Naturally the film is both violent and graphic and also a little surreal in places as a sort of heatre audience are involved in some of the scenes, like he is on the Springer show almost.
Overall an interesting film that is well worth watching.
The lead role is played by tom hardy who undertook a crazy fitness and exercise regime to bulk up for the part.He portrays bronson incredabilly well,and in my opinion he makes the film as brilliant as it is.Now for some reason i couldnt help but think of clockwork orang several times throughout the film.
The film starts off from bronsons childhood,which you see was quite normal, his parents wernt crazy or anything like that.Its when he gets put in prison that the film really takes off ,you start to see the madness behind the man and the explanation for it.From being moved from prison to prison, he eventually ends up in a mental home, where he even admits he got it wrong.
It then shows u what happened on his short time out of prison where he built up a reputation as a bare knuckle boxer, pretty much fighting anyone who was brave enough to take him on.It then leads up to him robbing a jewellery store which he was put back inside for , and still remains to this day
Despite it having a rather strange method of presentation, I couldn't help myself being absolutely enthralled by this film. Based on the true story of Britain's (supposedly) most violent and costly inmate, Bronson follows the life of Mickey Peterson, who adopted the name Charles Bronson as a fighting names following a suggestion by a fellow inmate.
As we follow Bronson's life, we get narration from the man himself, on a stage as if his life has been a bit of play, with him playing a role within it, as opposed to it being about him in the first place. I found this a bit surreal, in many ways, and in fact, the whole film is quite surreal. Were it not for the outstanding performance from Tom Hardy in the title role, I may have turned off, because it wasn't the story that interested me, it was the person, the character of Bronson.
How much of this is true or not is a big question. The film is based on Bronson's life, but in reality, there is a lot of fabrication here, with truth being amended to make it more entertaining, and a few choice additions here and there, and no doubt even more omissions. Director Nicolas Winding Refn provides a good hour and a half that will keep you watching, and when you dig a bit deeper into the director's character, you will realise that the style and surreality of the film comes from him as a big fan of Stanley Kubrick. There is a big chunk of style lifted from films such as One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest, and A Clockwork Orange, particularly with the prison elements, and the relatively downbeat living conditions that are portrayed throughout the film, and this then comes as no surprise. I wish I had known this before the film started, and then I would have expected what I got. Instead, the surreality confused me a little. Indeed, there is even a little influence of Bertolucci in here, with a very removed style of filming. The gaps in character development are covered by Bronson's presentation of the film to a make believe audience, harkening back to his days in a mental institution. It prevents us from gaining a true insight into how the man ticks, despite Hardy's performance.
Yet Tom Hardy as a lead actor completely takes the show to another level. He portrays a man so self confident on the outside that nothing seems to bother him, and when he wants to have a bit of a fight, he will do. It's the outbursts from him, followed by immediate politeness, that astounds. The language is foul for a lot of the film, and the violence is quite graphic, and there is full frontal male nudity, so this is definitely a film worthy of its 18 certificate, but it's worth watching for Hardy's performance alone.
Unlike a lot of reviewers and watchers, I didn't find this as amazing as I thought it would be. I felt it didn't completely grab me, and the fact that there is a lot of twisting the truth makes it less a biographical work and more one of fiction, and in this respect, it's just not entertaining enough. I recently watched Notorious, which documents the life of The Notorious B.I.G., and while this didn't have the fantastic performances, it gave a truer view of the character, and examined the facts of the man's life moreso than this did. I'm not a fan of such amendments to the truth, but maybe it's just me.
I watched the film thinking this was the man, this was the famed Bronson that had filled the papers every now and then with his notoriety for being an expensive inmate. This was not touched on enough. I'm unsure whether Bronson himself had dictated much of what the film shoudl contain or not contain, but there was too much confusion as to what was real and what wasn't, and for me this lessened the potential impact of the film for me.
Bronson is available on DVD for £6.98 from amazon.co.uk at the moment. I didn't see any extras, as I got this as part of my lovefilm deal and the DVD had no extras. Despite my rant, I do recommend you watch it, but bear in mind the director is a Kubrick fan and that not everything you see will be true. Recommended, but with conditions!
Charlie Bronson, born into this world as Michael Peterson to a respected middle class family is Britain's most notorious prisoner. Peterson is addicted to life inside, having only ever stolen a few pounds. He loves the fame and notoriety that comes with decking every prison officer that comes knocking on his cell door.
The film follows Bronson's life inside and his brief spell as a free man. The authorities don't know quite what to do with him, even sending him to the nuthouse for a brief spell. He lives for prison, comparing his life inside to that of a hotel room. The film is narrated and told by Bronson as if her were on stage to a large crowd. The film is also spread across a number of years with Bronson ageing throughout.
Bronson was a very good film made on quite a small budget. Its mix of theatrical viewpoints and brutal violence was clever and ever so British. The film harks back to 70's Brit flicks like McVicar, Scum and The Long Good Friday in style and is all the better for it. I really enjoyed the film and would certainly watch it again.
Unbelievably according to Wikipedia the film only had a budget of £150,000 which is amazing really as it looks very good and never appearing cheap. Nicolas Winding Refn has directed a very good film full of clever touches and a real professional sheen.
However, it really is Tom Hardy's film. His performance as Bronson is absolutely superb. Hardy actually went and talked to the man himself before taking on this very difficult role. He has just got the right balance between tender and thoughtful and to the far extremes of physical violence. Apparently for the film, he put on three stone of muscle and did 2,500 press-ups a day for five weeks. Now that's commitment!
I wouldn't watch Bronson if you are squeamish and don't like to see full frontal male nudity (Hardy frequently displays his male member). It's a very violent film indeed, but I tghought it was both entertaining and powerful. Highly recommended.
"Bronson" tells the story of the man who is allegedly Britain's most violent prisoner. Directed by Nicolas Winding Refn and starring the brilliant Tom Hardy in the lead role as Michael Peterson the film recounts the events that have led to this man serving more than 34 years behind bars.
Michael Peterson is bored. He's bored with his schooling. This leads to confrontation. Confrontation with his peers. Confrontation with his teachers. He is then bored with his job in a fish and chip shop. He's bored by his first marriage. "Irene and I got hitched. It was alright...we didn't have it bad for a couple from the chippy".
But Michael feels that he is cut out for greater things. He believes that he is destined for more than this.
So he saws the end from a shotgun and robs the Post Office.
Sentenced to 7 years his mother shouts to him in court that he'll be out in four.
34 years later he's still inside.
The story is told as a monologue from Tom Hardy to camera intially and then to an imaginary audience which Peterson imagines. He sees himself as a performer and describes his reasoning behind the decisions which have cost him his freedom. An original theft of £ 26.18 has cost him everything through a refusal to behave in any decent way. The character revels in the attention and notoriety that go with getting one up at every available opportunity. He has now spent time in over 120 prisons and been a guest at Broadmoor hospital.
He has spent only four months and nine days a free man in the time since his robbery.
The film is only loosely based on actual events. Having done a bit of reading since seeing the film I was disappointed to find that the most interesting scenes are actually fictitious. I understand the reason for their inclusion and they work to enhance the overall thrust of the film which is that Peterson is unhinged, extremely violent and doesn't care for freedom. He'd rather be a star no matter how small the scale. However, as with most viewers I'm sure, my basic knowledge of this guy is going to result in my being easily misled - which is a shame as I like to learn rather than to be lied to. The name "Bronson" is given to Peterson by his fight promoter after he rejects Michael's suggestion of "Charlton Heston" in the brief months that he is a free man. He needs a fighting name as he makes a name for himself in the world of bare-knuckle fighting. This is based on the fact that Peterson was a strong-man and fighter in his youth in Luton before he became a prisoner. These oversights don't stop the film being thoroughly excellent though. Let's not let the truth get in the way!
We follow Michael through the years of his incarceration...fight leads to fight...the extra years are added to his sentence. The violence here is carnal..brutish..but done with such style that it is actually a pleasure to watch providing that are of a certain mindset. I wasn't aware that the director is a huge Kubrick fan and this made perfect sense when I found out. The ultra-violence of Clockwork Orange is the perfect template for this picture. Slow motion fisticuffs set to a great soundtrack allow the viewer to glide dream-like through the film down a surreal and blood-warm river...
Attempts at restraint develop into heavy drugging in Broadmoor hospital. The viewer faces the choice of siding with Peterson in his blood-lust or feeling pity for a man who is throwing his existence away in the full knowledge that he is doing so. The direction and Tom Hardy's acting explore this dichotomy fully. It may surprise you to read that the story of a man who's entire life has been spent in prisons is full of great humour. Laugh out loud at times. Again...this has been achieved with artistic licence in part..but it is certainly entertaining. During one scene Bronson has taken the prison librarian hostage in his cell. He realises the guards will soon be entering the cell to restrain him and he begins to apply grease to his stripped body to prevent them grabbing him easily. He recruits his hostage to help him...."That's it..all over me back...and me legs...and me arse....on me cheeks..both cheeks...on my arse...NOT IN ME ARSE, YOU HOMO! Quicker, quicker, quicker QUICKER! F*** OFF! SIT DOWN! IN THE CORNER! DON'T MOVE, C***!"
Gallows humour but very well done.
This is an ambitious film that takes a very simple story and with great photography, acting and humour succeeds in entertaining if not informing.
Imagine "McVicar" or "A Sense of Freedom" with a laughter track....
Highly recommended. 9/10
Reviewed by Mark Woods, LordBeanpod@GMail.com, 2009.
This film is based upon the life of Charles Bronson, no not the actor but a man who changed his name by deed pole and has gained his own limited amount of fame due to his violent life most of it spent in jail where he has continued to make the headlines with his propensity to attack people and also to self publicise his life and actions.
I did not really expect myself to enjoy this film but it was actually a lot better than I expected and while there may have been some artistic licence used in telling the story it was an informative and entertaining film.
Bronson has spent the best part of 35 years in jail and is constantly moved around the prisons ofthis country, he is a high risk inmate who will take people hostage and attack peeople on a whim or even the slightest provarication.
The roleof Bronson is played by Tom Hardy who also provides the narrations, some of the scenes are quite sureal and the narration takes place in front of a theatre crowd who voice their pleasure or displeasure dependant on the content and performance put on. Hardy puts in a strange but compelling performance and is quite convincing in the role even if at times the plot seems to take some strange twists.
If you expected to leave the cinema or your sofa at home after watching this with an understanding of what makes Bronson tick then you may well be disappointed as I reckon it would take a legion of psychaitrists and a brain scan to work out what motivates or causes a person to act in such a way that guarantees they will be cut off from human contact for much of their life. If you are looking for a slightly different, entertaining but violent film then you will not be disappointed with this one.
Oh and while I remember it is also quite a dark drab film so best to see it on a big well light screen in my opinion, I would hate to try and watch this on a small TV screen.
I saw this film about a week ago and was pondering how to review it, if at all. I am not lost for words, rather, lost for structure, so I will write this review in a stream of consciousness' way and hope it meets with the approval of the reader.
For a start, the film is controversial. It portrays the life, albeit embellished and enhanced for cinema of one Charles Bronson (Michael Peterson is his birth name) who has become, in his 34 years inside over a 100 prisons, Britain's most famous prisoner. Famous for violence, for hostage taking, for rooftop protests and latterly famous for being the most famous prisoner. In this World of celebrity status being so important, he has achieved a celebrity status, basically for being a thug.
The film is directed by Nicholas Winding Refn (easy for you to say) who I have to say, I had never heard of. The style of the film is quite surreal, which I guess the director was looking for. We see Bronson fitting right in with the darkness of the screenplay and when there is more colour it is either blood, or in one scene, the blood red of a brothel. There is little other colour throughout, even his civilian clothes are drab.
I don't know enough about how films are made to know whether the director or musical director decides on the soundtrack, but whoever did, it was inspired. The start of the film and the end is played with a backdrop of 'Chorus of (Hebrew) slaves' Verdi, incredibly apt when you see the film. We get fights to Tchaikovsky and tastes of freedom to Flower Duet (Delibes), and we get a great 80's soundtrack with other scenes.
Tom Hardy plays Bronson, well, at least his adult years and narrates the story in front of an old style music hall audience, who boo, cheer and applaud his narratives and soliloquies performed through theatrical medium such as painted faces (mime style).
Hardy is hard to determine as an actor in this as he seems too theatrical to be true, so butch that he is almost camp, so damned hard that we sense his vulnerability, mixed in with his volatility. I think, though I'm unsure to be honest, that Hardy is doing the role (as required of him) justice, but giving depth to a man that I'm not sure has such depth. The fact that there are several nude scenes where he has to play the hard man (pardon the pun) whilst being covered in grease (you'll get it when you watch) alone singles him out as focussed if nothing else.
The theatrical slant seems very apt as we get the feeling that Bronson's life is little more than a play in which he plays a cameo role. The flashback scenes that intersperse the narrative only serving to further highlight what is, in some ways a Shakespearean, or even Greek tragedy. Bronson wants nothing more than fame and adulation, though clearly the only place he can achieve this is in prison, and the only way is by being more violent than anyone else; which ultimately leaves him battered and beaten and spending 30 of his 34 confined years in solitary, where he cannot see or accept the notoriety that he has created. Outside of prison, and also in prison when faced with humanity or any show of affection, Bronson (played by Hardy, though we sometimes forget) is at the least awkward, if not downright juvenile and naïve; it is this juxtaposition between his vulnerability and his menacing sado-masochism that left me feeling for him and wondering how he has not realised what a waste his life has been, though I reckon he probably has.
There are other actors in the film though in reality, as the title suggests, the film is all about Bronson, the other actors serve to illustrate him really.
Okay, it seems my review has wandered of into an analysis so I will pull it back a bit. Did I like it? Yes, I liked the story, I liked the portrayal of the 'man' inside the monster, I liked the theatrical style of the narrative telling, loved the use of mime faces and music hall boos and cheers. I didn't like the casualness of the violence nor the fact that no 'repercussions' for the injured were shown, we only get the one side of things and if the film was not to glorify his deeds, really we could have done with seeing the impact of his actions on others.
The acting from all concerned was fine, if a little theatrical, though as I have said, this is in keeping with the style of the film. The soundtrack is exceptional in matching the mood of each scene, and even more, creating the mood in some scenes.
There are some people that will not like it because of the very coarse language used and the scenes of quite intense (though not too gory or graphic) violence. There will also be folk that will love for just those reasons. This really is one of those films that will divide folk, and there will be those that do not even attempt to watch it and understand it as it is 'morally wrong'.
I actually think it is very worth watching, for it is a very different format and style from most prison prison/violence films.