"Bronson": Movie Review (2010)

1/05/2010 Posted by Admin

Movie Review


Directed by Nicolas Winding Refn, written by Brock Norman Brock and Refn, rated R, 92 minutes.

By our guest blogger, Kicia Sears

Listening to Nicolas Winding Refn, Danish director of the "Pusher" series, talk about writing and directing "Bronson" is like listening to a pushy film student. Talent aside (and yes, he is talented), he seems to be in awe of himself and his art. When he talks about Charlie Bronson as the creator of his own mythology, he speaks with a note of quiet admiration, like he wished he’d thought of it first. He draws parallels between Charlie’s life, on which the film is loosely based, and his own. However, the film neglects to take a strong stand on the issue of whether Charlie should be in jail, or even what factors contributed to his character. Rather, "Bronson" is a film about expression, perception and of course, the prison system in the U.K.

Charlie Bronson, neĆ© Michael Peterson, is often called “Britain’s most violent prisoner.” He was originally imprisoned in 1974 for armed robbery, but his 7-year sentence was extended numerous times for crimes committed in prison. His offenses included vicious beatings of guards or other prisoners, and hostage taking, though he has never committed murder. He was regarded as mentally ill and spent years in both mental health institutions and specialized hospitals for the criminally insane. Later, when he was declared sane--and after being released and re-arrested twice--he finally was admitted to a specially designed maximum security facility, where he remains today with no pending release. Of the 34 years he has spent in prison, 30 of them have been in solitary confinement due to the danger he poses to other prisoners.

The plot of "Bronson" leaves a bit to be desired. Charlie is seen as a young boy for about five minutes, beating on nearly everyone in sight. The rest of the film consists of brutal violence set to pumping synth and drum machine beats, a disturbing monologue to an imaginary audience, and a strangely sobering take on his brief foray into “normal society.” At times, the film seems to argue, along with Bronson himself, that he is not mad, not sick, just a regular guy who made some mistakes and is now paying for it in a corrupt system.

The message the film leaves the audience with is one that nearly justifies his penchant for violence as an art form or legitimate type of expression. The director attempts to draw attention away from the brutality of Charlie’s life by filming it gorgeously with pounding music and interspersing humor, but much of the nightmarish quality remains if only in the joy Charlie feels while, for example, urinating on an old man after beating him to a pulp.

The palette Refn sets for the film is gorgeous. The movie is shot in high-contrast overexposure, and in a cool temperature that gives each scene a striking mixture of muted blues, bright whites and deep reds. Refn also has a keen sense of framing--there are a few shots and scenes that stick out even among the general loveliness of the way "Bronson" is filmed.

One shot is in a scene where Charlie meets with his wife after first being sent to jail. It opens with a bird’s eye shot of Charlie at the table before his wife arrives. All the audience can see is Charlie’s arms on one side, the partition, and a water bottle on the other side of the partition. The way his forearms are curved makes for a pretty, slightly off-balance depiction of the separation he feels from the rest of the world. Another scene, in which Charlie attacks a fellow patient in the hospital, consists of a stationary wide shot of the hospital’s television area, with cloth partitions interrupting the audience’s view. The timing of the cuts and held shots--as well as the framing and peek-a-boo technique--make for a memorable scene, even without its morbidity.

At the end of the day, Bronson is a beautiful, intense, carnivalesque film about a man that may or may not be insane, based on events that might actually have occurred in his life. It is an artistic statement from a director who seems at times to be more concerned with his own reputation than the subject of his film. It claims to take on the idea of incarceration but feels more like a music video. It is 92 minutes well spent, even though it may leave you with a sour taste in your mouth. If you take nothing else from Bronson, remember this--Charlie Bronson loves Charlie Bronson, and he’ll probably continue to do so in a six-by-twelve cell whether he’s crazy or not.

View the trailer for "Bronson" below.  What are you thoughts?

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  1. Anonymous said...

    This review is spot on.

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