Nicholas Winding Refn‘s Bronson is an extreme-fury, absurd-testosterone package about a 57 year-old bellowing beast who’s spent almost all of the last 35 years in prison, and most of these in soilitary, primarily due to an anger-management problem of ridiculous animal proportions. Born Michael Petersen, he’s called himself “Charles Bronson” for much of his life behind bars. But his story, which I admit has a certain intrigue as an object d’art, isn’t nearly compelling enough to fill a feature-length film.
I began to think about escaping 35 or 40 minutes into it. Half my brain was processing the film, and half was figuring out what I could get done (i.e., write about) if I left early. As it happened I stayed to the end, but I had no idea what all the people who were praising this film at Sundance ’09 were on about. “This?” I said to a couple of them. L.A. Times guy Mark Olsen has called Bronson “a searing operatic vision…a phantasmagori\a motored by a dazzling performance by Tom Hardy.” Actually, it’s an oppressive and confining vision because it forces the viewer to sit in prison for year after year, and because it gives the viewer little more to contemplate than Hardy screaming and howling and banging his head against the bars.