Nicolas Winding Refn (Pusher) directs this biopic that delves into the life of Britain’s most notorious prisoner, Charlie Bronson (Tom Hardy) — who’s been jailed for nearly 35 years — and attempts to dissect the real man behind the deranged persona. While Bronson’s primary ambition was to be famous, he became a celebrity of sorts as a criminal who seized myriad opportunities to demonstrate extreme and terrorizing savagery.
Rating: 5 out of 10
It’s hard to believe there are people who want Charlie Bronson out of prison. He is an intriguing person — a thug by all definitions who has battered prison guards, held people hostage in jail, held up convenient stores and jewelery stores and has spent more than 35 years in prison. Most of that time — 30 years! — have been spent in solitary confinement. Any opportunity to have freedom is squandered by Bronson, who couldn’t be more violent and contemptuous for society, law, order or human nature.
Tom Hardy, who was excellent in “Inception,” is brilliant in the role. He put on a lot of muscle and had to go to some dark places to become Bronson (born Michael Gordon Peterson) the way he did. There is an intensity in him that is palpable when you watch the film. His unblinking eyes, massive gate when he walks, clenched fists and hunched shoulders become so encompassing that all sense of Hardy is lost immediately.
The problem with this film is in its direction. I understand that not all films have a linear, point A to point B approach. There are a lot of ways to tell a story. But when you want us to understand a character you need to take the time to develop it. Refn fails because the entire movie just hops in rapid succession to one violent act to another, with small moments where he attempts to develop character. There is a 1 minute scene where he tells a prostitute he loves her, and when she says she has a boyfriend, the next scene is him robbing a jewelry store — which does depict Bronson. But Refn never takes his foot off the breaks. I think if he took out some of the violence — not because I thought it was too violent — and replaced it with some genuine character development, he would have been more successful. We know he’s violent. He’s a renowned violent man, and that needs to be shown and shown with a sense of reality. What I want to know is, why? Refn didn’t answer the obvious or attempt to. This felt more like an action movie at times, rather than the biopic it was pitched as.