Review: Bronson (2008)


“It was absolute madness at its very best.”
– Charles Bronson

I have been wanting to watch this movie for the longest time, but each time I tried to watch it something else would come up and the movie would be thrown onto the back burner. I suppose when the time was right I would be able to watch it. It appears that my golden opportunity had struck, and I grabbed at it with both hands, and prepared for the unknown, and trust me, that is exactly what I got. Bronson is based on the true story of Britain’s most violent criminal, Charles Bronson, and this movie shows the depiction of it.

Bronson tells us about Michael Peterson (Tom Hardy), a young man who dreams of fame. However, he is not fame material in the sense of charm and dedication, and he has a temper to boot. One day he robs the Luton post office, and the police pick him up, and this time he is given a jail sentence of seven years. However, no fame really accompanies this, and so a simple petty theft sentence turns into a thirty four year incarceration (at the time of the film being released in 2008) of which thirty of them were spent in solitary confinement.

A ridiculously amusing scene, what with a mild mannered police officer getting tea from a madman

A ridiculously amusing scene, what with a mild mannered police officer getting tea from a madman

When inside, Michael realizes that he actually really enjoys prison for some absurd reason. The nineteen year old boy he went in as rapidly starts fading, and a troublemaker man emerges. Michael is permanently taking guards hostage and terrorizing them or starting huge riots and fights, and he is transferred from prison to prison. Eventually, though, none of them want him and reckon he is soft in the head, and send him to a psychiatric hospital. This upsets Michael, as he is no loony, and he wants out. Instead he is kept doped up to the extremes, limiting his violence as well as his thinking capacities. However, in a moment of clarity, Michael knows there may be a way to return to prison, and devises a plan.

Anxious to return to his prison “hotels”, he murders John White (Joe Tucker), a pedophile, thinking that this would be a terrible enough act to have him recommitted at a prison. Unfortunately for him, he is instead sent to a psychiatric hospital for the criminally insane. Things are really not going according to plan. Between all that is happening in his life, Michael is still desperate to make a name for himself, and his violence does not abate.

Michael Peterson in a drug-induced state

Twenty six years of his life was lost to the psychiatric hospital, and Michael rioted extremely, and rapidly became Britain’s  most expensive and violent criminal. Eventually, costs being so high, they declared him sane and sent him back out on the streets. His mum (Amanda Burton) and dad (Andrew Forbes) collect him from the ward and take him to their new home. Michael decides to go stay with his uncle, Uncle Jack (Hugh Ross). He meets up with Paul Daniel’s (Matt King) in a strip joint, and Daniel’s promises him fame and fortune in exchange for bear knuckle boxing like the beast he is, but he needs a stage persona, and so Charles Bronson is born.

However, the persona of Charlie Bronson takes over Michael Peterson’s life, until such time as it actually eclipses who he was and makes Peterson obsolete, and Bronson emerges from the ashes, famous and angry. He has an affair with a girl and falls in love with her, Alison (Juliet Oldfield), and tells her as much, as well as robbing a jewellery store to propose to her. She turns him down seeing as she is engaged to another man. Before disappointment can set in, the cops collect Charlie and his incarceration begins again. The prison governor (Johnny Phillips) at the new prison has no time for any troubles and drama, and Charlie tests him, again with numerous hostages, fighting, troublesome antics and sheer hostility at any given opportunity.

Bronson mind theatreBronson seems to excel at art, and his instructor, Phil Danielson (James Lance), encourages it immensely. It seems to keep Bronson’s temper in check, and keeps his mind and body busy at all times. However, Phil soon realizes that Bronson really is crazy and without friends when he gets taken hostage, painted on and has an apple stuffed in his mouth by Charlie, all for fun and games it would appear. Apparently the art has done nothing more than change the way that Charlie wreaks havoc.

Bronson gets a 7/10 for me. I honestly do not know how I feel about the film. It was not great, it was not awful, but it was, without a doubt, one of the most bizarre movies I have ever watched in my life. Tom Hardy’s performance was, again, flawless. I  marvelled at the supremacy of his acting, so easily slipping in and out of roles, and becoming that role entirely. My one friend was so shocked when I explained to him that he also played Bane and Forrest Bondurant. The movie was put together in a way that deliberately felt jarring, and was presented as both dramatic and comedic, with tons of violence to spice it.

I also enjoyed how it how it depicted Charlie performing in his mind for an audience. that was also exceptionally well done, as it brought in the reality that shows he saw himself as an entertainer, first and foremost. Naturally, many of the actual facts are changed, but apparently the essence of Charles Bronson was caught phenomenally well, and the role was delivered without a hitch. I did enjoy certain scenes, and undoubtedly in awe of the fact that the man truly was deranged!

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