Movie Review: Bronson

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I got to know Danish director Nicolas Winding Refn at a film festival in the mid 1990s, and then I met at him a couple of other events, among them when he was in the jury for Fantastisk Filmfestival in Lund, Sweden. As a matter of fact, in his movie BLEEDER, there’s a little “Hello” to me and my buddies: in the videostore that appears in the film, there are several posters for Fantastisk Filmfestival and for Magasin Defekt; a cult movie magazine I edited. I haven’t met Nicolas in many a year and I don’t really know what he’s been up to, more than that his movies FEAR X and PUSHER 3 bombed big time.
The last few months, quite a lot has been written in British movie mags about Refn’s new movie, BRONSON. Michael Peterson, who’s adopted the warrior name Charles Bronson, is said to be England’s most dangerous prisoner; a brutal guy who’s been locked up for the main part of his life; more than 30 years. He’s taken hostage, he’s revolted, but he’s also written books and created art.
I thought I was in for some kind of docu-drama, but it turned out I was dead wrong.
I sure was surprised when I discovered that BRONSON is a piece of utterly pretentious, filmed theater. It’s like a stageplay. We get to follow Charles Bronson’s life from his childhood, with Bronson (Tom Hardy) as the narrator. Sometimes he’s on a stage and holds pretentious monologues – and his face is made up like a damn mime. Sometimes, he’s sitting in a dark cell and talks right into the camera. When he doesn’t do this, there are dramatized episodes from his life and career – and everything is artificial, theatrical and, yes, pretentious. Nothing feels like it’s for real. It’s all about a bunch of make believe characters in a make believe world. The characters talk in odd ways, their lines sound too constructed, and they even move in unnatural ways.
Sometimes Bronson gets to fight and blood spurts, but everything is too distanced; the look and style don’t engage. Unless you like pretentious plays. Which you shouldn’t.
At the same time I feel I can’t trash Refn’s movie totally. Tom Hardy is pretty good in the lead. Some scenes are interesting. I sure wouldn’t mind seeing a real documentary on  Charles Bronson.