Bronson (2008)

You Don’t Want to be Trapped Inside With Me, Sunshine.

The impetus for today’s movie started before it was officially requested by my friend Ajla.  It originally started with my friend Jordan, around the time that the cast for the Dark Knight Rises was being released.  When Tom Hardy was announced as Bane, I was quick to criticize.  I am a critic, after all.  But it was entirely based on his appearance in Inception.  This was the only time I had seen him, and the guy was not physically impressive enough to play Bane.  By this point, I’ve seen Hardy in Warrior, so I would know better, but that was the only experience I had with him at that time.  But Jordan was quick to educate me, telling me to look up pictures of him in one of his earlier movies.  He was right; dude was totally buff in this movie, and I could see him playing a real-life version of Bane.  Later, Ajla requested that I watch the movie, so I decided I would give it a go.  But then I got completely terrified of the movie, not because of the subject matter of the U.K.’s “most violent prisoner”, but because the movie was directed by the director of one of my most hated movies in recent history: Drive.  Let’s see how it went as I review Bronson, co-written and directed by Nicolas Winding Refn, co-written by Brock Norman Smith, and starring Tom Hardy, Matt King, James Lance, Amanda Burton, Kelly Adams, Juliet Oldfield, Jonathan Phillips, and Mark Powley.

This movie is the story of England’s most violent prisoner, Michael Peterson (Tom Hardy), who later changed his name to Charles Bronson.  He was apparently a man who always wanted to be famous.  Being unable to sing, act, or write profoundly beautiful reviews, he takes to doing what he does best: robbing post offices and randomly beating the living shit out of people.  This delivers the expected result of landing him in prison, where he sets about being the most violent in there.  Occasionally he gets out, but he doesn’t seem too fond of not being in prison, so he does something to get back in.  That’s pretty much it.

This movie was okay, but it suffered from the problems that I expected it to.  The story was fine enough, but not much more than a biopic of a man’s life story.  The biggest problem I had was what I expected from this director: pretentious artsy fartsy crap.  I just want to slap Nicolas Winding Refn in the face and say, “Tell a story normally!”  I don’t need this guy’s story spread out with scenes of him on a stage talking about what we just watched.  I saw what we just watched!  I understand that some people love this artsy crap, but it just gets on my nerves.  It feels like an unnecessary distraction to me, especially when they were also perfectly comfortable just having Bronson talk to us directly, without the forced stage show parts.  If you have narration that he can’t just do in voice over, I’m okay with you just having Bronson explain it to me himself.  Refn also apparently felt that this movie was an appropriate place for his shitty, electronica, 80’s music that he beat me over the head with in Drive, and I still hate the hell out of that annoying shit.  But there were things about this movie that allowed me to like it much more than Drive.  None of them could be attributed to Refn though.  The story could be attributed mostly to the real Charles Bronson and not as much to the people that chronicled it and called it a movie.  He lived a pretty interesting and violent life, which makes parts of the movie worth watching.

Another thing that makes this movie entirely watchable is Tom Hardy.  I have not seen this guy even do a “good” performances yet.  He does “fantastic” at the very lowest.  He was great in Inception, fantastic in Warrior, and actually made Bane an interesting character.  And if you like this guy, like great acting, and just really want to see Bane’s dick, this movie is for you.  Tom Hardy disappears into this character.  It’s nothing like I’ve ever seen him do before, and is probably a lot like the real Michael Peterson, but I really don’t know what he’s like.  He’s absolutely fantastic in this movie.  As for everyone else … I didn’t really notice them.  It’s Peterson’s story, and definitely the Tom Hardy show, and everyone else was minor and forgettable, though not through any real fault of their own.

Bronson is a movie that caused me mixed feelings.  I liked the story of the movie, but I also don’t think a whole lot of respect goes to the chronicling of a life story.  I don’t give history books credit for their writing abilities either.  I still find myself profoundly irritated by everything Nicolas Refn brings to cinema, but Tom Hardy redeems as much as he can with his fantastic performance.  I think I would tell you guys that this movie is worth a watch.  If you’re like me, you’ll think parts of the movie are interesting enough, but at least Tom Hardy was great.  If you’re like so many people I’ve argued with about Drive, you might love this movie.  I say it’s way better than Drive, but I also hate Drive.  Plus, you can stream it on Netflix.  Bronson gets “Magic?  You just pissed on a gypsy in the middle of fucking nowhere” out of “You shouldn’t mess with boys what are bigger than you.”

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