Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Bronson Performs On Cue But Misses Mark

Bronson

Can a film survive without good acting? Normally I would answer ‘yes’ as there are so many factors that make up a successful film. Direction, plot, cinematography and many other aspects will change the outcome of a film. In the case of Bronson though, once you take away Tom Hardy’s invigorated performance it becomes clear that the film does not have much else to offer.

Director Nicolas Winding Refn chronicles the life of Charles Bronson (Tom Hardy), not the celebrated American actor, but the man who became Britain’s most notorious prisoner. Born Michael Peterson, Bronson displayed a lust for violence at an early age. Bronson’s penchant for fighting, and aversion to obeying the law, eventually leads him to a prison sentence. While most would see prison as punishment, Bronson viewed it as a training ground to perfect his fighting skills. Shuffled from prison to prison, Bronson begins to make a name for himself while the financial cost to tax payers skyrockets. What compels Bronson to fight so much? What does he hope to achieve? These are questions that only Bronson himself seems to know the answers to.

As I mentioned earlier, Bronson is a film that succeeds solely on the performance of Tom Hardy. Bringing a raw energy to the role, Hardy manages to make Bronson both menacing and oddly fascinating. Hardy commits to the role in a way that few actors would dare attempt. His performance allows the first half of the film to really explore Bronson’s state of mind. Refn wisely sets a section of the film inside a theatre to illustrate the fact that Bronson, in his own mind, is an entertainer putting on a show for the world.


The problem with Refn’s film is that it becomes repetitive fairly quickly. This is demonstrated from the moment Bronson is released from prison for a short period of time. Despite throwing in a few colourful characters here and there, most notably Paul Daniel (Matt King) who steals the few scenes he is in, Refn does not have any other insight about Bronson other than the fact that Bronson sees himself as a celebrity. Sure there are a few scenes with Alison (Juliet Oldfield) to show that Bronson is capable of love, but most of the film consist of Bronson getting into fights and talking about his self-perceived celebrity status. As a result, the second half lags greatly and feels much longer than it should have been.

Even when the film tries to redeem itself by offering a glimpse into Bronson’s new found interest in art, it never gets past the surface level. While Refn finds some creative ways of displaying the artwork on screen, he quickly goes back to his safety blanket of showing Bronson as a mad man who thought he was famous. While it is very possible that the real-life Bronson was mad and had a weird obsession with celebrity, this does not necessarily translate into a great film. By the end of Bronson I felt like I had not really learned much about the man I had just spent an hour and a half with. Hardy’s performance couple with Refn’s visual style in the first half is worth a recommendation alone. Yet, the repetitive nature of the second half really shows how thin on substance Bronson really is.

16 comments:

  1. "Bronson is a film that succeeds solely on the performance of Tom Hardy."

    Completely agree with you.

    This movie was very obscure and at times it didn't make any sense. I didn't like the scenes where Bronson was addressing a well-dressed audience in a sort of operatic fashion...what was the point of that? And he had all that crazy makeup on his face?

    Tom Hardy was brilliant, but he couldn't save the movie from being average. I didn't realize how much range this guy has, it makes me all the more excited for THE DARK KNIGHT RISES!

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  2. Hardy is completely unrecognizable in this movie. I literally had to check the IMDb to make sure it was the same guy as in Inception ;)

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  3. @Rachel - I actually liked those scenes where Bronson was addressing the well-dressed audience. I interpreted that as the viewer getting a glimpse into Bronson’s mind. In his own mind, Bronson feels he that he is performing the greatest show there is.

    @Castor – I could see Hardy going the Johnny Depp route in regards to being a great chameleon type of actor.

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  4. Hmmm Shame that, I really wanted to see it.

    I find the myth/character of Bronson fascinating. I was hoping this film would tell me more about one of the most famous criminals of modern Britain. But it seems (from your review) that it doesn't

    Ah well, I may check it out solely for Hardy, that boy is fast working his way up my favourite actor charts. Can't wait to see what he brings to the new Batman film.

    Thanks for the review CS, great writing as always.

    C

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  5. Oops wrong account....hehe Didnt even know I had a google account!!

    C

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  6. I'd need to see the movie again before I could say for sure, but I recall enjoyign the movie for more than Hardy's performance (although it's definitely the highlight).

    Refn direction is really strong, and I thought a lot of the visual elements, such as the costume, making and set design was all really distinctive. I know I'm not the first person to make this comparison, but it reminded me a lot of A CLOCKWORK ORANGE

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  7. @Tom It says that in the Tagline for the film....(well in the trailer anyway)

    C

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  8. @Custard – I still think the film is worth seeing for Hardy’s work. Bronson is not an awful film by any means, but I did not find it as great as many were making it out to be.

    @Tom – Refn’s visuals (makeup, costume, etc.) are good but I found the “wow” factor wore off after the first half. The film did feel a lot like A Clockwork Orange at times but never reached the heights that Kubrick’s film did.

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  9. I'm with you on this one. The film, while certainly well-made, struggles to create an accessible tone. It's numbingly blunt in its approach, it seems. Hardy, though, shows was an exotic talent he is in the film. He's one to watch out for.

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  10. @Danny – The bluntness is another issue I had with the film. The film starts off respecting the intelligence of the viewer, but by the end it felt like it was trying to spell out all the things it had already made clear in the first half.

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  11. For me, Hardy's performance here was the best Male lead of 2009; simply stunning.

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  12. @Colin - You won't find any arguments here about Hardy's performance. It was stunning indeed.

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  13. I couldn't even finish this film, but Hardy was phenomenal. I know it's pretty early, but I think the man is going to end up with a Christian Bale type career. Very dedicated to his craft, mixes his filmography well with both high profile jobs and indies, and somehow remain underrated despite being loved by bloggers like us.

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  14. @Red - I could see him going the Bale route as well. I think the next Dark Knight film will really make Hardy a household name.

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  15. Yeah, i wasn't amazed by it either. In fact i was rather disappointed.

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  16. @dirtywithclass – Yep for all the raves the film received, it is a rather disappointing film.

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