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March’s Film Selection – Bronson

April 4, 2011

Michael Peterson a.k.a. Charlie Bronson is often referred to as the “most violent prisoner in Britain” and is the subject of Nicholas Winding Refn’s arthouse film Bronson, March’s film selection.  The film explores, and ultimately ends with, Peterson’s evolution in to Charles ‘Charlie’ Bronson, a man who eclipses the person he originally was both in character and size.

Michael Peterson was initially sentenced to a seven-year prison term for committing robbery, his sentence ends up being stretched out due to what authorities see as his violent tendencies but we, the viewer, are given a peek in to Peterson’s head and know that his behavior is due to his desire to remain “a star.”  We follow Peterson’s life from his formative years in Luton, England to his current residence, prison.

There were many things I enjoyed about the film but the lead actor’s performance stuck with me the most.  Tom Hardy (of inception fame) portrays the title character in a way that is startling in it’s lack of fear.  Shots jump from Bronson delivering soliloquies to scenes of him literally trapped in his own body while condemned to a mental institution to shots of him bareknuckle-boxing prison guards while greased up and nude, etc..  These shots are filled with color and noise that are completely visceral and set to a soundtrack of 80s synth pop that, which not while incredibly subtle, highlights the dichotomy between what you are viewing and what you are hearing and only serves to heighten the viewer’s experience.  Refn has you and knows you won’t look away from what he has put on display and much like the aforementioned film scenes, Hardy’s performance is similarly engrossing and manic.

The film does not end on a happy note and if you are looking for an upbeat film I caution you not to rent this one.  In the end there is no redemption, and Charlie wouldn’t have it any other way.

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