October 14, 2011

Product of the Judicial System

In retrospect, I must say that I'm pretty happy with the way my parents raised me. You know, decent morals, polite manners, don't drink and drive, and don't put your sexual organs into volatile and potentially harmful electrical sockets. I don't about that last one; I think I might have just picked that one up myself. Anyway, I am quite pleased with all the life lessons my parents imparted on me, because, by following them, the chances of me going to prison for any legitimate reason (being part of protests and the like doesn't count) are somewhat slim. I mean, I've seen some movies, read some stories, and seen the odd episode of Oz, so I do have a pretty heavy desire to not get incarcerated in one the fine, fine correctional facilities that dot our country. As an addendum to this, I really like that I live in America, and not Britain, because if I am sent to prison in my home country, then my living situation will be decidedly more attractive. Cuz if Bronson is to be believed, then British prisons suck big fat ones! Yes, this film by virtuoso Nicolas Winding Refn is dark, disturbing, incredibly violent, and practically asking for controversy. It's also, at times, hilarious, quirky, and absolutely insane.
Ummm... I don't know really know how this review will pan out, cuz I don't really know what to say.
Well, let's give it a shot.

My mustache has punched more people than you ever will!

Bronson tells the story of Charles Bronson. No, I'm not talking about the actor with a death wish you took part in a great escape, I'm talking about Britain's most violent prisoner. 34 years behind bars, and counting, 30 of those in solitary, and counting. Bit of a crazy person, if you ask me. His exploits in the joint make up the whole of the movie, which is split up between Bronson's time in prison, and a fourth wall breaking exchange between him and an audience in which he puts on ridiculous make up, plays a woman, and acts generally batshit. Somewhere along the line, he starts making a name for himself as a bare knuckled boxer. Crazy stuff happens.

And that's about all that can be said. Sorry, but I'm still kind of at a loss as to what actually happened in this movie. It's a film that's more interested in examining and deconstructing the psyche of a psychopath than any sort of plot progression. And you know what? Fine by me; we don't get enough movies like that. And the movie does a great job of exploring Bronson, and all the multiple kinds of fucked up he is! He's like every iconic screen psychopath, from Alex DeLarge to The Joker, except he's real, which makes it infinitely more intimidating.

Tom Hardy lights the screen on fire as Mr. Bronson. It really is remarkable performance, deftly mixing elements of comedy, menace, absurdity, and just pure, unbridled craziness into an exceptionally convincing performance. He declares that prison was "madness at its very best," and you believe him, goddammit! Here's a guy who's been on steady upward streak, enjoying scene stealing performances in the likes of Inception, RocknRolla, and Layer Cake, and this one tops them all. It's a perfect portrayal of pure, unfeeling, violence, and it is compelling as all holy hell.

And that's about it. There's really no one left to talk about. Every other character is really just there for Bronson to project on, beat the crap out of, or intimidate in some other, less bloody, way. They all do fine jobs, easily handling the ridiculousness of what they are called on to do with winning conviction. But, this is Hardy show, and he soars!


Nicolas Winding Refn is a talented man, though I feel as if he's still honing his craft here, whereas he perfected it in Drive. Ok, yes, I know! Bronson and Drive are two completely different films, and I am aware that my opinion would probably differ if I saw this when it came out as opposed to seeing it now, two years after the fact. That's not to say that he does a bad job. Not at all. I just thought Drive was better directed and... ok, we're getting into semantics here. I'll stop!

One thing that I've noticed, and love, about Winding Refn is his ability to take a certain director's style or specific genre of film, and put his own spin on it to make it seem completely new. With Drive, he took the badass, one man against a whole bunch of bad dudes, genre, populated by the likes of Bullit, and Dirty Harry, and combined it with car movies in the vein of Vanishing Point, and covered it all in a neon drenched, Miami Vice inspired, mindset. His work in Bronson isn't as complicated to describe. Here, he takes many a cue from one director, more specifically, one film by said director. Said director is Stanley Kubrick, and said film is A Clockwork Orange. 

I'm probably going to make some major mistakes in the comparisons here. It's been years since I last saw Clockwork. Work with me here.

The whole idea of a, crazy violent, quite possibly mentally unstable man being "cured" by the rules and laws of the society in which he resides is basically the whole story of Clockwork, and it's more or less the story here. (The difference is that Clockwork then spent on how said "cure" would backfire on the "patient", while Bronson is more about how the "cure" just doesn't even work at all.) And it doesn't stop there. There's a certain quirk about the whole picture that brings out a biting but dark humor. Bronson is a pretty funny movie, much in the same way Clockwork was funny, from the way scenes are framed and cut, to how Bronson himself acts. I don't know about you, but seeing the walk that Hardy applied the character had me in stitches!

Do I love Bronson to death? Do I think it's as good as Drive? No, I don't. For now I will view it as a very good piece of madness with a sensational performance from Tom Hardy. I need to see it again. That much is certain. There was too much weird going on in this movie for to grasp fully what it was about. Thank the maker for watch instantly. Whoever came up with that business venture deserves some pie. Really good pie!


  1. I watched this movie a few months ago just surfing through the "Watch Instantly" stuff on Netflix. I really thought the film was well made. The gritty style really grabbed me. More than anything I am just commenting to say that I LOVED the opening paragraph on your review. I am reading this while on break at work and I literally lol'd at the "sexual organs" comment... the people in the next office think I'm crazy hahah.

  2. I didn’t really like this one as much as many others did either. I liked the style and Hardy’s kick-ass performance, but nothing else really
    happened here that kept me interested. Nice review.

  3. To me this felt like a cheap knockoff of A Clockwork orange.