Before Tom Hardy became a household name, he was tirelessly treading the boards of theatres and popping up on the small screen. That is, until the one man show that is ‘Bronson’ really introduced Mr. Hardy to the world of Hollywood. With one of my favourite directors at the helm in Nicolas Winding Refn, and one of my favourite actors turning in what I consider to be his best ever performance, ‘Bronson’ became an instant hit with myself and finds itself comfortably in my top 50 films of all time.
There have been countless documentations of Britain’s most (in)famous prisoner, some intensely factual and others verging on the elaborate and exaggerated. Winding Refn, of course, opted for the latter in his representation of Charles Bronson’s life. Born Michael Peterson, the young man who would become Charlie ‘Fucking’ Bronson was one of a rather violent disposition shall we say. Beating to a pulp anything that gets in his way and taking great delight in criminal activity, it was never going to be long before he found himself in prison. Once there, Charlie would do anything to make a name for himself, and would do even more to make sure he never had to be a part of the real world again.
Any of the supporting cast are but a distant memory, completely outshone by the leading man Tom Hardy. That is not to say that any of their performances are substandard – Matt King actually delivers a brilliant performance – but just as the real life convict would want it, this is the Charles Bronson show and you better not take your eyes off him! Tom Hardy takes on a menacing appearance with his clean, bald head and muscleman moustache, but it is his vocal chords which win the day again. Just as he does for Bane in ‘The Dark Knight Rises’, Hardy conjures up a hauntingly impressive voice for his character, which spends most of its time on a level of calm assertiveness. Just in case you don’t heed his words the first time however, he is more than capable of a fearsome bark and the occasional maniacal scream. His bite is worse though, quite literally. The real moments of star quality however, shine through in Bronson’s staged monologues to his ‘adoring’ audience, where Hardy really delves into the psych of a man who can only be described as a lunatic. I sincerely hope he never reads this!
The intense soliloquy scenes are a stroke of genius from Winding Refn, who exhibits Bronson’s desire to be famous through a most theatrical and bizarre process. Not content with producing perfect dramatic scenes, Winding Refn captures moments of incredible, action-packed, no holds barred violence. Some of the fight scenes between Bronson and the prison guards are truly horrifying, but it’s that special kind of brutality from which you cannot avert your eyes; transfixed by the animalistic nature of the whole thing. The way in which the film is composed helps to create a fantastic contrast between many a calm surroundings, and the bloodthirsty beast which prowls in the darkest corners, all underpinned by an excellent soundtrack. If you’re a fan of ‘Drive’ you’ll recognise the same linchpin track – ‘Digital Versicolour’ by Glass Candy. At the heart of everything though – what makes the film so entertaining and intriguing at the same time – is the powerful script put together to tell the story; some of the dialogue might not be for sensitive ears but it’s Charlie ‘Fucking’ Bronson, what did you expect?
For fear of going down the same path as our titular character, I will round up the review and curb my bad language. Any excuse to throw in the odd F word! As you can tell already, I am rather fond of ‘Bronson’ and don’t really have a bad word to say about the film. If you’re interested in the criminal mind, more specifically Charles Bronson’s mind, or if you just love Tom Hardy, this is an absolute must watch. Hell, even if you just have a penchant for violence and need to satisfy your craving, we won’t tell.
DIRECTOR: NICOLAS WINDING REFN
STARRING: TOM HARDY