Sunday, October 18, 2009

Movie with Abe: Bronson

Directed by Nicholas Winding Refn
Released October 9, 2009

Films with a character’s name in the title are expected to be the story of a single character, though it’s rare that a movie is so fully committed to telling one individual’s story with little to no regard for the existence or emotion of any supporting personages. When one character lives within his own world, closed off from the rest of society, going deep into his mind is a risky gamble. The focus will likely be fascinating, but being trapped in someone’s mind with no hope of escape is a dangerous thing, especially if the movie has no way out of the rabbit hole either.

“Bronson” is based on the true story of Michael Peterson, a Brit who went to jail at age 19 for a relatively minor crime and found his true passion: acting out violently against the guards to keep himself in jail with no hope of or attitude towards release. Peterson, who dubbed himself Charles Bronson, fashions himself a celebrity and tells his story as if everyone knows who he is, and if they don’t yet, they will when he’s done with them. He’s a prototypical Rupert Pupkin, who yearns for stardom and delusion ally believes he’s already achieved it when in fact the only audience privy to his accomplishments is his own psyche. He’s perpetually putting on a show, and the thought that a camera isn’t inside his head would never even occur to him.

Peterson/Bronson fancies himself an entertainer, and thus giving him a stage, as the film does, from which he can narrate his story and perform what he sees as his act is a fine choice. The audience really gets a full-access backstage pass to the Bronson show, and it’s a fascinating glimpse into a frightening mind. Yet the film is also ruled by Bronson’s unhinged mannerisms, and it’s somewhat problematic that the film never emerges from the deep rut that Bronson fell into when he first went to prison. Director Nicholas Winding Refn turns the movie over exclusively to Bronson and his inner dialogue, and as a result there are no additional points of view or perspectives probed. It’s an appropriate showcase for the volatile character, and performer Tom Hardy buries himself impressively into the role, and carries around a massive mustache and an uncontrollable anger that would be hard for a less skilled actor to match. It’s a grim look at his life, however, and there’s something excruciatingly depressing about a life that’s so utterly hopeless. It’s a dark film so entrenched in madness that never quite comes up for air. Since its lead character never does either, it’s fitting, but the movie is often too bleak to be compelling.


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