Bronson – Movie Review
Dig if you will the picture of a well behaving Christian child anticipating Christmas. It’s his favorite Holiday and he’s made it a point to be an extra good boy all year. He knows the 25th of December is right around the corner, and he knows this is going to be the best Holiday ever. With a perfect snowfall forecasted, a dutifully mannered wish list, and a perfect tree in the corner of his family’s living room, he’s ready for the one night of the year that seems nothing could possibly go wrong. Then, Christmas finally comes only to discover his family decides to spend it in the cold garage and only give him clothes they bought for themselves as gifts while not mentioning anything about the holiday season in favor of showing you the awful paintings they made in their first week of an adult community college art class the previous week. Feel bad for the kid? Now you know how I felt watching Bronson!
It pains me to preface my review with a description of the film because it seems spreading awareness of such a can’t-miss prospect that misses to such a degree is cruel in and of itself. Bronson follows the true story of the UK’s most famous prisoner “Charles Bronson” (not the actor, but the prisoner who adopted his moniker for his fight name) as he spends 30 years fighting from one prison to the next. Bronson is a legitimate psychopath who also happens to be charismatic and absurdly entertaining. For years, his entry, which covers everything from his 47-hour rooftop protest that cost $75,000 in damages to a hostage situation where he demanded “an inflatable doll, a helicopter and a cup of tea,” has been my absolute favorite page on Wikipedia. For someone who has spent all but four of the past thirty-five years in solitary confinement, he’s (for lack of a better term) accomplished a great deal that would be fantastic to see on screen, all without killing a single person. Sadly, the film adaptation of such a life is a far greater crime than anything committed by its subject.
I’d like to blame writer/director Nicolas Winding Refn, and I think I will. With a tremendous untold story in his hands and a tremendous actor in Tom Hardy leading a fantastic cast, all Refn should have had to do was get out of the way and let the magic happen. Instead, his “directs” this mess with the hands of a nine-year-old playing with all the buttons on his first camera and over-stylizes the film until you flat out forget what you’re supposed to be watching. While the trailer hinted at Bronson being less-conventional than a standard biopic, the level of pretentious abstraction Refn sinks to would be laughable had it not been so frustrating. From fight scenes in slow motion with the sound replaced by classical music to the narrator revealing he was laughing following implied crying, no art school cliche goes unturned. It’s Wolverine for the indie kids.
I’ve never been a stickler for movies staying true to their source material. Whether adopted from history or a comic book, at the end of the day all I want is a good movie. That being said, a story like Bronson’s should be enough for any 82 minute movie, which makes it further baffling that a third of the events depicted in the film DID NOT IN ANY WAY SHAPE OR FORM HAPPEN. The man has been kicked out of 120 different prisons, you don’t need to make up a clunky arch about him living in a brothel and stealing an engagement ring. While Hardy would surely be capable enough to pull off jumping such a sharktank of lies, Refn’s “direction” spends most of the time diluting his performance with unnecessary “Artistic” shots and a not-so-subtle commentary on the nature of celebrity that implies he used a heavy hand to get his head up his ass.
Bronson is an unappealing disaster of a film. With the subject matter barely accessed, next-to-no fighting and no real developed story, Refn manages to disappoint on all fronts. Instead we have a film obsessed with itself as “edgy” that never lets you forget you’re watching something that really believes it’s the next A Clockwork Orange. With a tremendous performance from Hardy, and really everyone, saving this from a complete panning, I can’t recommend this movie serving any purpose for any person, place, or thing.
We give Bronson a 2 out of 5.
Until next time, let’s agree to agree!