Resembling an old time brawler with new school attitude is Tom Hardy as Michael Peterson who in turn takes on the ego of Charles Bronson, by way of name change. Not the famous American actor made popular by films like Death Wish, but the man heralded by British press as the "most violent prisoner in Britain".
Bronson, the new biopic from the underrated Nicolas Winding Refn, is not so much the kick ass, take names straight-laced action or fighter film it might seem to be at first glance. Rather, the brutal drama shines out of a delusional and troubled world created by the mind of the seemingly unstable and psychotic Bronson, somewhat like the universe of British brethren Alex in A Clockwork Orange.
The film is presented in a rather unique way by Refn, using interluded "performance" scenes featuring the character of Bronson on stage in front of a crowd, telling his life story (not 100% verbatim the way it really happened) by way of monologue, sometimes the way the man comes, and sometimes donned in clown makeup. It's puzzling and strange, but adds another dynamic to the storytelling technique, and never really allows the viewer to leave the mind and thought process of Bronson.
I think the first thing the politically correct audience will say of this film is the age old complaint that the film glamorizes violence. Much like other films might glamorize prostitution, drugs or any taboo subject a person deems inappropriate. I can rightfully say that this film is far from doing that. It may be edgy and stylish, dark and comical, but at the core of all the fun and all the fighting is this broken human being, unable to learn.
In all honesty, the film hardly touches on what effect Bronson's juvenile actions of rebelling after imprisonment and imprisonment has on his family or others. I do think this lends to the surrealistic nature the film carries right from the start. The entire time the film is rested wherever Bronson seems to be. Not a true life character study, not a true life film, just based on a true story, strongly exaggerated, but still highly relevant to the honest and irregular nature of the man.
The role of Charlie Bronson seems like it was meant for Tom Hardy to play. I would call his performance of the violent Bronson as near perfect. Hardy is visceral, loud and just plain mean as the prisoner Bronson. At nearly 32 years of age, this seems to be a breakthrough performance for Hardy. Going with an actor that most people couldn't recognize in a lineup over a trialed and tested name such as Jason Statham was the right call for this film, allowing Hardy to practically transform into Bronson. The type-casted Statham would never let me forget that it is indeed Statham I'm watching.
Under the tight direction of Refn, Bronson excels as one of the surprising hits of 2009 thus far. It's not too poetic in meaning, and it certainly isn't a film that sheds humanitarian light on the enigmatic Bronson, but it is entertaining, unique and acts as a steamboat of a vehicle for the rising Tom Hardy.