Random Rewind: Bronson
Bronson is a 2009 film starring English actor Tom Hardy, directed by Danish filmmaker Nicolas Winding Refn and has nothing to do with the actorCharles Bronson. Bronson is a film based on the life of Michael Peterson who is known as being one of England’s most violent and infamous prisoners. He is still in prison to this day. A good portion of that time in prison if not most of it has been spent in solitary confinement.
The legend of Michael Peterson may be well known in the UK, but I never knew or heard of anything about him until I saw the movie and he is quite the fascinating person. He was a former strongman and bare-knuckle fighter. He committed armed robbery in 1974, which is what landed him in prison. He was only 22 at the time and is still in prison to this day. What has extended a 7 year sentence to most of his life are the things that has made him infamous UK. In prison Michael Peterson has been violent to other prisoners, prison guards, has taken inmates as well as prison staff hostage, and has caused prison riots. He is seen as a threat and a very dangerous inmate which is why he has spent a good portion of his time if not most of his time in prison in solitary confinement. All of this is very well documented in the film. Michael Peterson has actually been released from prison twice, one of these times is documented in the film, but he has always landed himself back in prison. Michael Peterson is also an author of a couple of autobiographies and a prison fitness book. He is also regarded as a fine artist and this art needs to be seen to be believed. The name Bronson was given to him by his fighting promoter as a fighting name and Michael Peterson has gone under the name of Charles Bronson ever since 1987.
The movie Bronson is not your typical tragic prison film filled with depressing scenes of being locked up and butt rape. It’s not one of those gritty prison films where the inmate has to watch his back for fear of betting killed and/or butt raped. This isn’t one of those prison films where there isprison gang violence and gang butt rape. In fact no butt was raped in the making of this film. There is a lot of male nudity in this film, but it’s never exploitive or sexual in anyway. In Bronson Tom Hardy as Michael Peterson/ Bronson plays the terrifying and intriguing personality who turns the British prison system on its ass. Bronson is not your typical tragic prison film because it really isn’t about a man being locked up in prison, but a movie about the man who happens to be locked up in most of the film. The movie is entertaining, shocking and very funny at times.
What makes Bronson shine as a film is the performance by Tom Hardy and the excellent direction of Nicolas Winding Refn. This movie is brutal, and graphically a very violent film. What balances the extreme violence is also how stylized the violence is. Nicolas Winding Refn has a way of making you feel every hit, but at the same time making all this violence seem gorgeous. The fights are masterfully combined with classical music, classic and current rock/pop tunes. Even the use of slow motion in a violent scene, something that a lot of film makers overuse and use poorly, is carefully organized together with the music and fight choreography to give you something that demands to be seen. The movie has a gritty yet colorful and almost kind of cheerful look to it. Even some of the darkest scenes like when Michael Peterson gets locked in a mental ward have a sort of warmth to them. The use of light and color almost makes the settings feel out of worldly while keeping you in this very real crazy world. It’s a careful balance of these extremes that give Bronson its unique style. Nicolas Winding Refn also has a way of placing each actor in every scene that just makes every scene drip with coolness. A lot of these scenes you can pause and admire because they are put together with purpose. This movie is often compared to Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange. I can see the similarities, but Bronson is its own thing and tells its own story. Believe me when I tell you, you’ve never seen anything like Bronson. Yes, this movie has a lot of style but also substance to back up all the style. What Nicolas Winding Refn has done is not to tell a straight forward biography film where you are just shown the life of Michael Peterson/ Bronson. The story is mostly chronological snap shots of Michael Peterson/ Bronson life all tied together by a narrative by Tom Hardy as Michael Peterson/ Bronson. These narrations aren’t voiceovers during the film. The narrations are shown and told as a one man stage show that Michael Peterson/ Bronson is doing in front of an audience in a theater. It’s a simply creative way to tie the events in the story together and this is where Tom Hardy brings life to the character Michael Peterson/ Bronson. I knew of Tom Hardy before this film in smaller roles he has done in several movies before Bronson, but this is truly his breakout role. Not for one instant did I ever think it was Tom Hardy, I thought I was really watching the one man wrecking crew Bronson. Tom Hardy not only gives you the over the top legend of Bronson, but he gives you the man. From everything I’ve written about Michael Peterson he sounds like a guy you would stay far away from, but Tom Hardy shows that there is more to this man, that he is a creative, captivating and a charming individual. It goes back to the delicate balance of extremes that makes the film brilliant.
Bronson is a flawless film. I’ve heard some grumbling from people saying you don’t ever really get to fully understand the man or the motivation for his behavior once the move wraps up. I think that’s a good thing. A lot of biography films try to really psychoanalyze a character and spoon feed us answers, but there is more to a person that any one movie can try and explain. I think the film shows it to us and makes us think about it. After seeing the movie I’ve done so much research on Michael Peterson/ Bronson, read his books and I still really don’t fully understand him, but I guess you’re not supposed to. Humans are a complicated lot and every day we are still learning about ourselves. To expect a movie based on such an extraordinary public figure to figure it out all for you is ridiculous and to criticize the film for this is even more ridiculous. I can give you my take on him, but I don’t want to give the film away and it’s just my thoughts and ideas at the end of the day anyway.
This film is obviously highly recommended. Bronson is definitely a movie worth buying and available on DVD and Blu-ray. The extras on the disc are worth investigating and give you so much useful information, on the man and the movie.
Check out the trailer