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United Kingdom 2008
Directed by
Nicolas Winding Refn
89 minutes
Rated MA

3.5 stars


With Bronson, Danish director Nicolas Winding Refn gives us a stylish, divertingly kinetic portrait of real-life but ultimately one-note individual. As far as the facts go Michael Peterson, who would eventually adopt the name of screen action man Charles Bronson, was born in Luton, England in 1952. By his early youth he was manifesting a sociopathic tendency to violence and by his early 20s had landed in prison for robbing a sub-Post Office of a few quid. It was in the nick that he found the opportunity to realize his self-appointed mission, to become famous, using his only evident talent – his propensity for fisticuffs – thus acquiring infamy of sorts as "the most violent prisoner in Britain", and spending all but 69 days since then in solitary confinement.

Refn, with co-writer Brock Nelson Brock, chooses to have Peterson tell his own story either direct to camera or as a kind of theatricalized representation of his internal monologue with Peterson in clown make-up and switching back and forth from these to recreations of various events in Peterson’s life. Photographed by Larry Smith who shot Kubrick’s final film Eyes Wide Shut there is no question that the latter’s Clockwork Orange was a significant point of reference for Refn. This also seems historically justified (Kubrick’s film was released in 1971) as at the end of the film Peterson takes his art teacher hostage and dresses him up in the droog manner. In the lead Tom Hardy with his beefed-up physique is visually perfect for the role and his performance leaves nothing to be desired in communicating Peterson’s violent nature. Refn makes no attempt to explain his subject’s behaviour and some perhaps will find the film, for all its formal pizzaz, exploitative and/or pointless. Be that as it may, it is impressively well done.

DVD Extras: Director’s Commentary; a short interview with Refn and the theatrical trailer and teaser.

Available from: Madman




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