Refn is famous for his trilogy of movies Pusher I, II and III, screened at the international festivals but never released in North America. He seems the best choice as director for an artistic treatment on Bronson but at a time it’s hard to watch this ultra-violent movie. Basically a full blown excursion of main character’s in-and-outs of various institutions showing his bouts of aggression, beatings, more beatings and even more beatings, the film eventually ends on a note with Bronson again, once again ultimately beaten up by the screws. And judging from his incorrigible behavior, the audiences online probably feels he deserves it.
The full movie briefly chronicles Peterson’s youthful days. He is shown at school beating up his fellow students and teacher and eventually growing up to a bald-headed 19-year old where he gets into trouble with a botched robbery. Swiftly apprehended and originally sentenced to 7 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, his superstar alter ego, took center stage. While the publicity notes state that it is Refn’s intent to enter the inside of the mind of Bronson – a scathing indictment of celebrity culture – this never happens.
A main fault is Refn’s insistent of putting art before factual account – a tactic that worked very well in last year’s Irish prison story Hunger. An example is the extended dream sequence interspersed throughout the film with Bronson in clown make-up telling his life-story to a faceless audience. What this achieves is nothing. Refn does not offer any insight to his violence, his erratic behaviour or any mental or psychological problems that he might have. The only reason is that this is a man who seeks fame, but Refn’s plot does not reflect this at all. The developing relationship between his parents and Michael when he was let go free from prison to their care is quickly dismissed for more segments of artistic violence.
The effect of the violence is lessened by an overriding musical score, often by classical music. Though it is not Beethoven, the musical score and characters’ dress and the static staging of scenes often remind one of Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange. The movie has a continuous edgy feel owing to the fact that his Bronson can erupt into a fighting monster at any time even after online dispute.
But the ultimate effect of the film is artistic violence on display with no insight to the protagonist’s behaviour or comment on the social justice system. Pity as you can watch Tom Hardy – he offers a riveting performance while undergoing a body change from average to muscularly scary.