A young man who was sentenced to seven years in prison for robbing a post office ends up spending three decades in solitary confinement. During this time, his own personality is supplanted by his alter-ego, Charles Bronson.
In 1974, a hot-headed 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. During that time, Michael Petersen, the boy, faded away and 'Charles Bronson,' his superstar alter ego, took center stage. Inside the mind of Bronson - a scathing indictment of celebrity culture.Written by
The line "it was absolute madness at its very best" was written by Charles Bronson himself for the film and told to Nicolas Winding Refn during one of their phone calls. See more »
In the movie, Michael's/Charles' loot from the post office robbery is some £42 and small change. In reality, it was £26.18. See more »
All you need is a name.
What's wrong with Mickey Peterson.
You need a fighting name, like a movie star.
Look, love. No one gives a toss about Charlton Heston. The man's a cunt. You're more of the Charles Bronson type.
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Tom Hardy's volcanic performance makes this bio utterly compelling.
One thing is for certain: Bronson invites you to admire its protagonist as a pure, muscular embodiment of anarchy. And perhaps you will, but you will also be glad that he is still behind bars. The film opens with a man on stage proclaiming, "My name is Charlie Bronson, and all my life I've wanted to be famous." The auditorium appears to be empty, but later, a still unseen audience provides the approval he so desperately covets.
Born Michael Peterson (Tom Hardy), in a British suburb in 1952, he first went to prison at the age of 22 for burglarizing a post office. He stole £26.18 and received seven years for the crime, but that sentence was quickly extended as Peterson's infractions inside began to pile up: insubordination, violence, blackmail, and multiple hostage situations. Michael is gradually swallowed up by the prison system, seemingly an environment that suits him best. It is during this time that Michael Petersen, the boy, fades, and 'Charles Bronson,' his superstar alter ego, takes over. Bronson occupies any territory in which he exists by sheer, brute, force. Bronson's first and only instinct is to fight, to capture, and to win. He never makes it to phase two of planning. He has now spent more than three decades in jail, with the majority of those years in solitary confinement, and has become a tabloid sensation as the "most violent prisoner in Britain."
The film is impressively structured and edited, shot in dark tones--illustrating his theme that Bronson is "an artist looking for a canvas," whose search is frequently violent, crazy, and erratic. The director is Nicolas Winding Refn, most famous for the movie "Drive" (2011), and his "Pusher" trilogy of films about Copenhagen's violent, multi-ethnic underworld. Refn himself is something of a rebel, who brings a sharp, surreal, foreign eye to the film.
The film solely rests upon the astonishing performance from an almost unrecognizable Tom Hardy. Bronson never asks for our sympathy for his situation, but somehow, at times, he is able to do just that. Hardy brings a raw physicality to the role, leaping naked about his cell, jumping from tables, and hurling himself into half a dozen guards. Unfortunately, the film never gets under the skin of Bronson and his motivations. It omits other facets of his life including the Muslim woman he married in jail, his conversion to Islam, and the subsequent renouncement of the awards he won for his art and poetry.
Enduring the egotistical ramblings of a psychopath may not sound like a particularly entertaining prospect, but "Bronson" delivers on all fronts. Gripping, visceral, ugly, and beautiful, "Bronson" is simply unforgettable.
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