Director: Nicolas Winding Refn
Cast: Tom Hardy
Watch Bronson online in the UK: Amazon Prime / iTunes / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / TalkTalk TV / Google Play
In 1974, the ambitiously violent Michael Peterson (Tom Hardy) robbed a post office. Then he went to prison. Behind bars, he got even worse – craving a name for himself, he filled his life with years of fame-seeking brutality. Finally, with his Luton boxing manager (the hilarious Matt King), he found a suitable pseudonym: Charles Bronson.
Tom Hardy excels in the part of the infamous prisoner, a hulking wall of muscle and heft with the kind of charisma that reaches out of the screen so it can punch you in the face. And so we watch, gob-smacked, as Charles beats up inmates, strangle paedophiles and paints himself in the buff. All the while, he narrates to the camera, glaring out at the audience with a loutish grin, unashamed of his deeds. And, just in case you doubt his insanity, Brock Norman Brock’s screenplay doubles up events with a vaudeville act, full of deadpan juxtaposition and clown make-up. Cutting away to that metaphorical one-man-show takes Peterson’s superficial identity – a performance in itself – and runs with it, allowing Hardy to shine, two parts comedy to one part psycho.
Not your average biopic, then. In fact, this is as arty as they get: a string of chronologically correct events hewn together with flair. Clearly channeling A Clockwork Orange, Refn goes for long tracking shots and gloriously disturbing bursts of bloody carnage. He even chucks in some Wagner (along with some Pet Shop Boys for good measure). While Kubrick’s masterpiece had depth and a graceful narrative arc, though, it’s a shame that Bronson ends up feeling a bit bitty. But as a showcase for Tom Hardy, in a breakthrough role that shot him to stardom, this is arresting, provocative and stunning cinema.
Bronson is available to watch online on Amazon Prime Video as part of a £5.99 monthly subscription.
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