Netflix is an online film streaming service with a vast library of mainstream movies and sleeper hits. The company’s instant streaming service may not have as many high quality titles as the companies soon to separate DVD delivery service but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t hidden gems scattered amongst their library of mediocre titles. The film “Bronson” is one of these under looked titles.
Director Nicolas Winding Refn’s Bronson is an anarchist biographical film that is based on the true life of Britain’s most violent criminal Michael Peterson a.k.a. “Charles Bronson”. Despite having never killed anyone, Charles Bronson (Tom Hardy/The Dark Knight Rises) has spent thirty two years of his life in solitary confinement for his repeated brawls with truncheon wielding prison guards. Actor Tom Hardy gives a tragic, menacing, yet darkly hilarious portrayal as the flawed bare-knuckled fighter.
The film begins with a naked Bronson standing in his cell surrounded by a small army of prison guards. When the door is thrown open, the guards pour into the cell and the muscled Bronson meets the group half way in an operatic battle that is reminiscent of Stanley Kubrick’s “A Clockwork Orange”. The resulting brawl ends with a badly beaten but unbroken Bronson being hauled off to solitary confinement where he will spend the majority of his isolation training for the next fight. Despite his repeated defeats, the self absorbed celebrity inmate seems to be loving every minute of the attention he is getting.
Before Charles Bronson adopted his alias, he was dysfunctional 17 year old Michael Peterson. After attempting an armed robbery at a post office and stealing an extremely small sum of cash, Michael is incarcerated for 7 years without good behavior. Michael immediately takes a liking to prison and sets out to make a name for himself through acts of savagery. Authorities are unable to decide what to do with such a volatile inmate so they lengthen his sentence and repeatedly put him in solitary confinement. After a failed but highly memorable stay at the funny farm, Michael is declared sane by the British Government and released back into society after 30 years of constant fighting and imprisonment. Michael attempts to go back to his old life but finds that he is unable re-adjust to civilian life. Michael Peterson eventually adopts the name Charles Bronson after becoming a successful underground street fighter and quickly re-enters the prison system with the intent of making it his theatrical stage. However, Bronson surprisingly demonstrates a remarkable talent for drawing creating a small glimmer of hope for this self destructive individual.
Bronson is a surreal and stylishly atmospheric journey into the heart of darkness. The film features excellent music and a brilliant unflinching performance from British actor Tom Hardy. Hardy brings a raw physical intensity and likeability to an otherwise unsympathetic anti-hero. Notable sequences of the film include Bronson’s brief but difficult stay at a psychiatric ward and a mesmerizing but haunting final sequence that will stay with viewers long after the credits roll. Paisano Rating Score: A