This week, I’d like to delve into the work of one of Hollywood’s most polarizing filmmakers, Danish director Nicolas Winding Refn. Refn’s filmography consists of a number of heavily stylized action/thriller films, including the Pusher trilogy, Drive, and the relatively recent Only God Forgives. This week’s Netflix feature, Bronson, is one of my personal Refn films and is a perfect example of how a little imagination can elevate a simple concept from simply ‘good’ to decidedly outstanding.
British actor Tom Hardy gives perhaps the best performance of his career as the titular inmate, Charles Bronson. The film focuses on the sensationalized, though still mostly accurate, life and subsequent incarceration of Charles Bronson as he copes with his brief stints of freedom, institutionalization, and turbulent love life. Bronson’s desire for notoriety is the impetus for his violent behavior, and his real-life brutality and savagery is offset in the film by some truly ingenious narration and surreal, dark humor.
At once a crime thriller, biopic, and dark comedy, Bronson is a film that is best seen for oneself. Endlessly imaginative and expertly written by Brock Norman Brock and co-written by Refn himself, the story is broken up between plot points and hugely entertaining asides in the form of Hardy’s minstrel-esque soliloquies. Bronson’s character really gives the impression that he lives solely for the sake of making a name for himself; it give him a purpose, without which he would be completely lost. The key is that Hardy’s portrayal is eminently believable and infectiously charismatic, even at his most brutal and sadistic, culminating in one of the most compelling anti-heroes around. As with many Refn film, the reason some may love Bronson is that same reason that some may despise it. Stylized in the the typical Refn fashion, the film is nothing if not a visual treat, and Hardy’s flawless performance is guaranteed to captivate.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5