Editor’s Note: This is a re-post from out old site Film Is Pwn covering the 2009 Charlotte Film Festival, as we look forward to the 2010 CFF later this month:
Bronson is the story of a man. A man completely detached from the realities of the world and what it means to be human. He’s not nice, good or really evil in the typical sense of the word. What he does is evil but to him it appears that it’s nothing more than a game, a foray into the woods rather than being the very real actions with tangible consequences that they are.
I don’t believe I’ve enjoyed watching a movie more in a very long time. It seems clear to me that Director Nicolas Winding Refn had a clear vision when he chose to venture into this film. He was determined and he pulled together an outstanding cast and crew to see it into fruition. Tom Hardy as “England’s most violent criminal” is spot-on. His performance is dark and menacing, without remorse and completely insane. Exactly the type of man I rather imagine Bronson to be. There is no sanity to this film. No character to stabilize you. You feel constantly at odds against the main character, much, I imagine, like the prison guards must have felt these thirty years.
This is not a film about the politics of prison, rehabilitation vs. punishment. Though there was some mention of what might be considered excessive solitary confinement. The movie doesn’t seem interested in discussing why Bronson has found himself in prison or why he’s inclined to fight which forces him to stay in prison longer. Bronson is violent because he is.
Watching this movie I loved his madness. Perhaps it attached me to the madness within myself, albeit drastically more mild and less violent. I felt that I was finally given the view of a man who wasn’t complicated; he’s not surrounded by subplots and pretentious inventions of film makers. This movie was about a character, a showman, a charmer of sorts. Imagine Glenn Beck, in his feistiness and ability to rile people up, now tie it to violence and a lack of remorse. That is the Charles Bronson displayed here.
Some moments of this film were in my opinion pure genius. A scene wherein Bronson is telling the story of a conversation he had with a nurse. The back and forth is dark and angry, yet humorous. The opening scene of him boxing bare knuckled against the grates of his cell, flooded with red light and grimace that would melt the heart of any guard, and the war cry that echoes down the corridor of the prison as guards rush in to subdue him. The film felt original even as it paid homage to Nicholson’s Joker and A Clockwork Orange.
There are plenty of questions of the accuracy to the story. According to Wikipedia, the first crime of Bronson (then going by his birth name of Michael Peterson) netted only 26 pound, not the 46 or so displayed in the film. Wikipedia insists that he was never released from prison once entering. But this does not damage the movie for me. On the contrary, I think it more easily allows the movie to be what it was: the study of madness and the question of how we define where our humanity begins and ends. The scene of him fighting dogs, I imagine, is supposed to make us wonder if he is more man or animal.
It is not common for me to endorse a movie so highly. In fact, it’s not common for me to enjoy a movie so thoroughly. However, it is a dark story about a very distressed man. Be aware of what you’re going to see.
I would like to say Thank You to the Charlotte Film Festival for inviting us to come. My first film festival has so far been an excellent experience.
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