Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Nog vs. Bronson!

Nicholas Winding Refn's Bronson, an odd, fascinating biopic of "Charley Bronson," begins with the title character (who adopts the moniker of the famous film vigilante) addressing an invisible audience in an empty auditorium. "I always wanted to be famous," he says, and in his mind, he certainly is (the empty auditorium suggests otherwise). Bronson (played by Tom Hardy, who offers a fearless, award-worthy performance) gained his notoriety, such as it is, by becoming known as "Britain's most violent prisoner," prone to stripping naked, painting himself with something like war-paint, and beating the ever-loving hell out of anyone that comes near him. The film is not interested in psychological motivation and in fact suggests that a fondness for violence is simply in his nature (along with a destiny of jail: watch for the nice, darkly funny shot of baby Bronson clutching the bars of his crib). He finally lands in jail at nineteen, almost intentionally, it seems, sensing that 1970's Britain has nothing to offer him but a stifling domestic existence that won't tolerate his true nature, and his life from then on out is a succession of prisons and mental institutions (an interesting sequence raises the Clockwork Orange-ish question of the cruelty of "curing" someone like Charley). Refn's film mostly bounces smoothly back and forth between Bronson's stage monologues and brutal prison fight sequences set to classical and techno music before leaving us with an absolutely haunting final shot of Bronson that almost demands sympathy for him. A very good film for those that can handle the brutality.

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