Has anyone told him this isn’t a glamour shot?

Golden Mug

Actor (Tom Hardy)

Theatrical Release Date: 10/09/2009 (USA), 03/13/2009 (UK)
Director: Nicolas Winding Refn
Cast: Tom Hardy, Matt King, Juliet Oldfield, Hugh Ross, Amanda Burton, Andrew Forbes

Anyone thinking “Bronson” was the bio pic about the “Death Wish” actor Charles Bronson will be quite surprised to find what appears on their TV when they pop the DVD in. I didn’t make it to the theatrical release and am catching up to films I’ve missed in 2009 and started with this because of the exceptional buzz surrounding Tom Hardy’s leading performance.

While I’ll get to my issues regarding the film as a whole, first and foremost the film is a showcase of Hardy’s fearless portrayal of perhaps Britain’s most notorious criminal, Michael Peterson. Still in jail after 30 plus years (nearly all of it spent in solitary confinement), Peterson is a human wrecking ball with apparently even less of a conscience. His only apparent goal in life is to bash in the skulls of everyone around him. He loves the notoriety and perceived status it affords him, eventually taking on the moniker of Charles Bronson in homage to the actor (though really, it could have been any big name action star).

Hardy gives his all to the role, quite literally as there are numerous full frontal nudity shots of the actor. He is asked to be the personification of rage and he gives himself over willingly. However, what sets the role apart and elevates it above just simply the tale of a brutal fighting machine are is the juxtaposition of prison scenes with that of Bronson on a stage, telling his story and his thoughts to a fictitious audience. It’s an excellent method that director Nicolas Winding Refn employs to show another side to the character.

And make no mistake, the film is solely about Bronson and is not your standard bio pic. Rather than be tied to specific points in his life, making it a simple retelling of his exploits, the film is much more an exploration of how this man thinks. He’s sent to a mental institution but eventually declared sane, in part shown in the film because he repeats the same violent acts over and over again, knowing he will get the same response. The insane thing would be to expect a different outcome, but that’s just not Bronson’s style.

My problems with the film overall stem from how myopic the story becomes. Sure, it’s an examination of this man, and in many ways an examination of the human condition, but the constant fighting and raging against the system becomes monotonous and almost numbing. It was easy to lose the point and simply see it as a mad man beating up cops, when there was much more underneath.

Still, if the story interests you and you’re a fan of films like “Chopper” – where Eric Bana turned in an equally impressive performance – go ahead and check out “Bronson”. A 3.5 out of 5, Hardy’s performance alone is worth checking out and if the distributors and people behind the scenes can push for it, you may see him nominated in the months to come.