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Week 6: Bronson [Mar. 10th, 2009|05:29 pm]
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Another fine addition to the prison film canon or self-indulgent Bafta bid? The next film up for discussion in The Independent Film Forum is Bronson. What did you think of Tom Hardy's performance? Was the portrait of Britain's most notorious prisoner too soft or not sympathetic enough? Air your views in the comments section below and we'll print the best of them in the newspaper next week.

Here's a trailer

Look out for The Independent review on Friday.

This is what Variety had to say about the film:
"Bronson is beautiful - dp Larry Smith does stellar work - and Hardy's performance is outstanding, especially considering he's playing multiple parts: There's the war-painted, hell-raising Bronson who dives lustily into herds of prison 'screws' and nearly beats them down. There's the briefly out-of-prison Bronson who, deprived of his natural habitat, becomes meek, vulnerable and, for a moment, the awkward lover to the faithless Allison (Juliet Oldfield). It's not just that he can't function. He's almost invisible. When Bronson reunites with his Uncle Jack (Hugh Ross), who runs a brothel/salon for cross-dressers, the film starts to flag, because you realize at that point there's been no story: It's all been set-up, atmosphere and character building, without any narrative momentum. But Refn gets back on the bike and starts telling what he means to tell about Bronson, and his art. The director doesn't explain Bronson so much as use him as a mirror for viewers who would probably like to act out against the frustrations of life by putting someone's head through a wall. Bronson is therapeutic and strangely calming, probably because his brand of nonstop fury seems absolutely exhausting."

Responding to our reviewers, here is what some readers wrote:

Marcus Peerman:
"I hated everything about this movie...its a pretentious apology for a thug with little actual talent of any kind onscreen."

"For all its arty pretensions, designed to appeal to the morbid voyeurism of a middle-class culturati who have probably never been within ten miles of an actual prison, this is yet another shameful glamorization of the nasty-psychopathic-thug-as-anti-hero.

Why do film-makers persist in indulging in this misguided hero-worship? The people they portray - whether fictional, or, as in this case, based on reality - are not nice people; they are not educated, intelligent, sensitive, funny, caring people you might choose to have as friends; they are, for the most part, ignorant, stupid, callous, sadistic sociopaths whom you would probably run a mile from, and who are behind bars for a very good reason.

We are not stupid; we know these people exist. But do we really need to be reminded of it constantly, by an endless stream of films glorifying their pathological behaviour? And do film-makers consider the harm they might be doing by setting these thugs and nut-jobs up as role models of testosterone-fuelled bravado and strutting machismo for the more deluded and easily-impressed of our urban teenagers to emulate? Have these film-makers not heard of the explosion of gang-related violence, knife and gun crime on our streets?! Do they think that producing films like this is likely to make the teenager boys who watch it (a) less violent or (b) more violent?

To those film-makers I say this: GROW UP! Stop portraying violent criminals as 'cool', and consider the effect that your films have on society, please!"

Dee Morris:
"As a paper that apparently prides itself on facts I was very surprised to see a very obvious mistake which is far from FACT. Charles Bronson has never killed anyone FACT. Your article is obvious of personal opinion to which everyone is entitled. However I find it very concerning how your opinion is in fact blatant lies. You state the film glorifies his violence however if it showed the violence he has sufferred would have the government and penal system allowed its release?? The film also shows the self rehabilitation that Mr Bronson has done against all odss whilst being locked in a cage where an animal would not be kept. He has wrote over 13 books and sells art for children's charities amnd has done for many many years. This of course would not be allowed to be quoted or known. He is heavily criticised for his past however is never given recognition for his achievements or others. For anyone to be locked up for over 30 years in solitary and remain able to be mentally stable and still write poetry, do art and think of and help others, write books and remain positive is far from the animal the media portray him as. People need to know facts and rely on papers like yourself to print them."

Over to you. Time to have your say...


From: salford_roy
2009-03-12 04:15 pm (UTC)

The Bronson movie,...a must see

This is one of the two films that are essential for me in 2009, and both have a tenuous link. First up is Star Trek, and equally the Bronson movie.

Former Star Trek (there's yer link!) actor Tom Hardy, who turned in a superb performance despite Nemesis being a stinker, could probably read the Nottingham phone book and turn in a BAFTA winning performance. Truly one of the brightest and most talented actors in Britain today.

I deeply regret that the Prison Officers union has chosen to complain long and hard about this film. Of course prison officers never dish out their own violence...however Charlie has a story to tell and I am genuinely excited over Tom Hardy's performance which already is gaining hugely positive reviews.
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From: randycarmichael
2009-03-17 10:47 am (UTC)
A decent film but not great. There were some nice stylistic things from the director and good performances all round. However I can't help but think of the brilliant Australian film, Chopper, from 2000, which was on a similar theme. The whole thing pales in comparison to Chopper, in particular Eric Bana's lead performance in that film. So sadly lined up against Chopper, Bronson looks rather like standard 'Brit film' mediocrity... But it's not entirely without merit.
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From: ray_boothby
2009-03-18 08:42 am (UTC)

to the arbiters of taste and decency....

i can't stand this slew of holier than thou opinions stating that a film about a criminal can never be entertaining. Its knee jerk reactionism to something that isnt to their tastes. Guess what? Your tastes are as idiosynchratic and fallible as anyone elses. To claim there is no talent on display in this film is moronic, from the trailer alone i can see tense editing, breathtaking cinematography, emotive performance, stirring visual mise en scene. Refn's 'Pusher' and 'Bleeder' are both about unpleasant characters and feature issues such as rape, drug dealing and retribution - both vendetta and legislative. They are both amongst the finest european cinema of modern times, but are both uncomfortable in the extreme. if gabriel garcia marquez adaptations are your normal bag, you wont like bronson. if you are a screw or related to a screw, you wont like bronson. if you feel yourself to be mary whitehouses slightly more liberal heir, even subconsciously, you wont like bronson. If you can keep an open mind and approach criminality without having a high and mighty conniption fit and if you like tense, unpleasant but most importantly escapist cinema (the reason cinema exists) you'll undoubtedly at least be able to appreciate the film for what it is rather than make dismissive and needless ill informed side swipes at something that really wasnt designed for you anyway. You probably don't like taxi driver, scum, clockwork orange or the original funny games either - and you are wrong to write them off. Let the prison authority make their own film as a rebuttle rather than stifle other people's attempts towards free speech and throwing their toys out of the pram because somebody pointed out that they are essentially a millitia paid to deprive people of their natural state of being. screws are violent, they are part of the mechanics of a violent authority and they are going to crack skulls to get their way. they are dealing with very tough and usually irrational people and obviously will respond thus, so don't pretend otherwise. if you don't want to be taken hostage and humilliated don't take a paid-by-the-hour job to keep the world press-up champion locked in solitary for 25 years, become a milkman or a gardener. Where are the adaptations of the novels of prison officers? It says something that a 'psycho thug' or whatever other labels you want to casually toss around, can write a book and sell art pieces while the screws and the system's most creative contribution is keeping a lot of doors locked and allowing people to hang themselves.
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From: chicunique
2009-04-05 11:28 am (UTC)

Bronson review

There is absolutely nothing redeeming about this film. Not a chink of light shines through the blackness of the tortured soul that is Charles Bronson. The film is very theatrical and Tom Hardy's performance is brilliant but who wants to trawl through a sewer for two hours without some kind of reward? This film offers none. It does tick all the boxes for style and the music is cool but disturbed and depressed is how it left me feeling. It is clear that Charles Bronson has (or had) anger and rage that he was unable to contain but there was no reference in the film of him ever being treated by a psychiatrist, nor any explanation of his psychological makeup. A scene of him with a psychiatrist would have been a welcome break from the violence that makes up most of this film. I really wanted to try to understand this wildly angry man, I wanted to see that the authorities had tried to, but perhaps I was just being naive. There was no reference to rehabilitation in the film, just attempts at trying to tame a wild animal (which were unsuccessful). The film makes no apology for its gratuitous violence and does not really come to any conclusion or judgement - it just gives us the facts of the violent history of Charles Bronson - and nothing else, which is why I found it so bleak. The film was crying out for a shift from the violence, just for one scene at least. I really wanted to see something remotely humane just so I could stop cringing for a few minutes. I was hoping they would show his marriage but they never did. Surely there were moments where anger and violence didn't consume him? Watch this if you want to watch a true method actor at work but buy a bar of soap on the way home as you may want to scrub yourself clean when you get in.
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