Bronson (2008)

Director: Nicolas Winding Refn
Writer: Brock Norman Brock, Nicolas Winding Refn
Cast: Tom HardyKelly AdamsMatt KingJames LanceJuliet OldfieldKaty BarkerJoe Tucker
Seen on: 8.1.2017

When Michael Peterson (Tom Hardy) is 19 years old, he robs a post-office. He is apprehended pretty quickly and sentenced to 7 years in prison. But due to his violent behavior, his sentence keeps getting prolonged and he spends most of the decades he ultimately is imprisoned in solitary confinement. There he grooms his public persona Charles Bronson, who started as a bare-knuckle fighter. Peterson/Bronson notoriously becomes Britain’s most violent prisoner.

Bronson is not an easy film to watch but it’s a film that leaves a mark. It definitely left a deep impression on me.

I like Refn as a filmmaker, both the newer Neon-Glitz-Refn, and what I know of the older Offbeat-Dark-Refn, though the older stuff is a little more up my alley. And while there will always be a special place in my heart for Valhalla Rising, Bronson might be the stronger film.

Tom Hardy – who I love anyway – delivers one of his best performances pretty much ever, especially since Brock and Refn’s experimentation with narrative structure gives him so many opportunities to shine and in so many more ways than you’d expect at first, given that the major selling point of the film is that Bronson was violent and (literally) insane. In another filmmaker’s hands this might have become simply an orgy of violence, but Refn doesn’t make it that easy for anybody.

The result is an at times funny, but most of the time shocking, highly political film that never shies away from the violence that Bronson inflicts and is definitely guilty of. No excuses are made for his behavior. At the same time, it’s a deeply humanizing look at this extremely difficult man and more than once it’s made absolutely obvious how he was failed by the system that really didn’t know what to do with him.

Neither the violence, nor Bronson, nor the film is always easy to swallow. There are quite a few parts that you need to work through. But the work you put into the film pays off. If you do it, you’re rewarded with a (narratologically) fantastic portrait of an interesting person.

Summarizing: Really, really very good.

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