Charles ‘Charlie’ Bronson is Britain’s most infamous guest at Her Majesty’s pleasure. He is a best selling author, and many people will remember him from the rooftop protests at Broadmoor. But who is the real Bronson?
As you may have worked out, Charlie wasn’t always called Bronson. He was born Michael Peterson to a pretty normal family and had a normal upbringing. However, from an early age he was a feisty person and brought trouble home to his parents. Falling in love with the girl from the local chippy where he worked, Charlie equipped himself with a sawn-off shotgun and robbed a post office. This was his first experience inside and, as he explains throughout the film, he has found a place where he belongs.
Bronson soon becomes the prison system’s most unpredictable guest. Anything can set him off into a violent rage and no one is safe. Moved constantly throughout the prison system, he finally ends up in Broadmoor where he infamously staged rooftop protests and caused millions of pounds of damage. Due to his violent nature, Charlie has spent most of his prison time in solitary confinement in a variety of different restraints, including a straitjacket.
What I liked about the film Bronson is that it could have been a ‘prison picture’ or a ‘bio-pic’ but it’s neither. It’, in fact, quite an ‘arty’ film brilliantly directed and staged by Danish film maker Nicolas Winding Refn, the chap who made the Pusher films. Shot on a grainy film stock, the prison scenes, in particular the fighting, is extremely brutal and the aftermath of how Bronson is left by the authorities is quite sickening. Yes, it is violent, but, like other films such as Scum, I found myself, scarily, warming to the character of Bronson as he is actually, in the film, quite a funny guy.
Now, I have waited until the end of the review to talk about Tom Hardy and his portrayal of Charlie. I simply cannot describe how good his performance is. Bulking up for the role after meeting Bronson himself, Hardy lives and breathes the character and is incredibly convincing in the fight scenes. Throughout the film, we experience Hardy as Bronson in front of an audience telling you his life story. When I first saw this I was unsure whether it would work. As the film progresses, I enjoyed the scenes as much as the rest of the film and it does give you a break from all the violence and swearing going on elsewhere.
Bronson could have been just another British prison film but, with a foreign director on board and a production team with some balls, we have a really unusual film and it works. It won’t suit everyone due to the subject matter, but you should see it, if only to see possibly one of the best acting performances (Hardy) I have seen in a very long time. If you enjoy Hardy in this, catch him in The Take, the TV mini series just released on DVD based on Martina Cole’s book. He’s pretty scary in that one too.
Along with the film is a ‘making of’ featurette, an interesting piece on Hardy’s personal training, and some trailers and TV spots. Also included is an audio recording from Bronson himself which is essential listening.
Bronson is out now.