Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Bronson (2009) - By Mark Oswald

The UK’s most violent/famous prisoner gets his own movie, and it sure is a weird one. I guess since the real-life subject is still alive they can’t offer a conclusive ending, so that can sometimes affect how the rest of the movie plays out, which I think is the case here. Tom Hardy plays Charles Bronson; not the actual American actor/badass Charles Bronson, but rather adapts his moniker as more of a stage name to the persona he wishes to create for himself. Born as Michael Peterson, Bronson always felt destined for great notoriety and fame, and I guess that means if you don’t possess any of the more common talents like being a great musician, or actor, or architect, or mathematician, or whatever, then you could always just be a fucking asshole. That works too, apparently.

Bronson has earned a name for himself by being locked up in prison for over 34 years (30 in solitary) after initially being sentenced to only 7, for armed robbery. Once in prison he is constantly fighting with the guards and other inmates. He suffers beatings as awful as the ones he dishes out, but he seems to relish every violent experience. I guess you could call him crazy for all his acting out; he does in fact get sent to a mental institution for a portion of the film; but I thought to myself, “This guy must know exactly what he’s doing, or at least must have some idea”. It seems like at least a little planning goes into every outburst. Like after each intense beating, he uses his recuperation time to come up with another way to fuck with the guards and prison administration, but don't worry, I won’t spoil his brilliant little nuggets for any potential viewers here.

The film itself is almost Kubrickian in its still and tracking shots, with every piece of furniture and/or actor specifically placed to garner a particular effect. In fact I have heard a lot of comparisons to Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange. You do have a maniacal central character narrating his misdeeds while the film goes through his life almost episodically, so I can see the comparison, but I also think A Clockwork Orange has a more concise story. It introduces you to a character, shows you what he’s all about, and then it shows you what happens to him because of the way he chooses to live. Bronson, on the other hand, seems a bit more meandering. You’re never quite sure where it’s going to go, and the extensive use of classical music and steady shots of him standing around staring at something tend to wear out their welcome after a while.

With that being said, however, the film still manages to be quite entertaining. Bronson isn’t really a character to sympathize with, as much of one to be fascinated by. It’s like watching a wild animal at the zoo, except this one is prone to extreme spurts of violence and narcissism. Bronson just loves fucking with people as much as he can and he doesn’t even try to hide it. He takes hostages just for fun, without having any real demands in mind. When asked what he wants, he seems confused, asking, “What do you got?” I mean he’s in prison, and seems to enjoy it quite a bit and isn’t exactly in a hurry to get out, so what else does he really desire aside from the notoriety that comes with being a hostage-taker in the first place?

So the Bronson character might be self-indulgent and showcase kind of a “HEY LOOK AT ME! LOOK HOW FUCKING CRAZY I AM!!!!” mentality, but he can’t help but be amusing to watch; unless you’re drastically opposed to on-screen violence and sadistic behavior. All in all, I found it entertaining and worth watching for a balls-out performance from Tom Hardy, who really does deserve credit for giving his all here, even if the film itself seemed a little too self-aware and showy at times. I say check it out, though.

Body Count – 0 (surprisingly)

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