BRONSON (Nicolas Winding Refn). 92 minutes. Opens Friday (October 30). For venues, times, and trailers, see Movies. Rating: NN
The man who calls himself Charlie Bronson is the most violent prisoner in Britain. He's spent 34 years in prison, 30 of them in solitary. He's a brutal, unpredictable, explosive monster - and he takes great pleasure in maintaining that reputation.[rssbreak]
Bronson (real name Michael Peterson) should be the ideal subject for director Nicolas Winding Refn, whose showy, ultra-violent Pusher trilogy made him a star of the international film festival circuit. What would he do with a true story of blood, guts and rage?
Not much, it turns out. He wants to offer an impressionistic look into the psyche of its narcissistic, preening subject, but the film never gets past Refn's massive debt to Stanley Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange. Beatings are scored to classical music, characters framed in wide flat shots, and the protagonist lives in a constant state of violent arousal.
Tom Hardy - best known over here as Patrick Stewart's Romulan clone in Star Trek: Nemesis - gives his full-throated all as the raging anti-hero, but Refn seems more interested in keeping him at the centre of his compositions than in doing anything with his performance.
A British colleague argues that Bronson is best viewed as an indictment of the UK penal system, but I think that gives the movie far more credit than it deserves.