BASED ON THE TRUE STORY OF ONE OF THE WORLD S MOST VIOLENT PRISONERS
In 1974, a misguided 19-year-old named Michael Peterson decided he wanted to make a name for himself, and so with a homemade sawn-off shotgun and a head full of dreams, he attempted to rob a post office. Swiftly apprehended and originally sentenced to seven years in jail, Peterson has subsequently been behind bars for 34 years, 30 of which have been spent in solitary confinement. Provocative and stylized, BRONSON follows the metamorphosis of Mickey Peterson, who gave himself the nickname Charles Bronson, from a petty thief into Britain's most dangerous prisoner.
Tom Hardy's performance in the lead role burns right through Bronson, the somewhat true tale of a real guy who, once the movie finishes, you'll be very glad is still locked up in an English jail. There's no obvious reason why Michael Peterson became what he proudly calls "Britain's most violent prisoner." His upbringing was normal, his parents meek but loving; he was even married with a child when, in 1974, he attempted a robbery that landed him in the slammer for the first time. Peterson saw this as "an opportunity to sharpen my tools" and make a name for himself; and that he did, eagerly taking on half a dozen guards at once and regularly spending time in solitary confinement (at one point for 69 straight days). A stint in "the loony bin," where he killed another patient, followed, as did incarceration in a hospital for the criminally insane, a brief period on the outside (having been "certified sane," he went to live in an uncle's whorehouse, found work as a prizefighter, and fell in love), and then a permanent return to prison, where he decided to change his name to Charlie Bronson (after the American actor) and, improbably, became a pretty decent painter (a climactic scene with his art teacher perversely invokes the Belgian artist René Magritte). Not all of this really happened, but director and cowriter Nicolas Winding Refn's film is hardly a documentary; with its saturated color palette, surreal framing devices (Bronson tells some of his tale to a rapt audience in a large theater), and frequent use of black humor, this is a highly stylized and often strange piece of work. Hardy, who has also been seen in Guy Ritchie's RocknRolla and will be in George Miller's fourth Road Warrior epic, delivers an extreme performance; sporting a shaved head and a John L. Sullivan handlebar mustache, he is a credible if occasionally cartoonish presence, a leering, profane, joyously violent cockney madman. Extras include interviews, a making-of documentary, and a featurette detailing the extremely buff Hardy's training for the role. --Sam Graham