There’s an English poster for Bronson (2008) which says its A Clockwork Orange for the 21st century. I found that whilst putting together this review. I had the same thought myself whilst this dark prison biopic began. A new more dangerous Alex minus the conditioning stood before us, just as charismatic yet more deadly if you got on the wrong side of Michael Peterson who later changed his name to that of film star Charles Bronson. From the director Nicolas Winding Refn who would later bring us the incredible Drive (2011) it’s easy to see the journey from one film to another. Each gruesomely violent in tone. However it’s the earlier that is more horrific you can’t rest for a second as Peterson tells an audience his life story, a gran delusion taking the form of an audience with whom he shares his life story, bragging and celebrating his achievements of violence, it’s the charisma and theatricality of his performance that sees us through.
Earning the title of the most dangerous prisoner in Britain is not something I knew about. Something that is very clear from the start. A caged and bloody mine, foaming at the mouth, ready to fight the next law enforcer who enters the room. A man who relishes and enjoys every fight he initiates. The violence is the energy that drives him on the inside. By no means is this a film for the faint-hearted, from the beginning there is head-banging, ear chewing blood spewing everywhere. He’s a monster that takes little to trigger off. An angel to his mother who sees no wrong in him. His time on the inside is where we spend most of our time, set against the music of The Pet Shop Boys and classical music, mean to removes us from the pain to a place of safety and euphoria, inside the unpredictable mind of Peterson who for a long time is beyond reproach until an infamous jail break and rampage that leads to a different kind of disturbance.
Our image of a psychiatric hospital is reinforced where we next see Peterson, no longer out of control, doped up to the eyeballs, a powerful man is tamed, so we think, even drugs cannot hold him back. Her Majesty no longer wants to hold the countries most dangerous prisoner, released once more into the wild, to “make a name for himself.” An eccentric character emerges, one that continues for the rest of the film. An ego that needs to be stroked more than others can handle. A pussy cat around those he loves and respects, yet hovers on the edge of throwing one of his fists your way.
Tom Hardy‘s transformation into this role is to be bowed to, piling on the muscle, consuming a new psyche to get inside the criminal mentality that is Charles Bronson the petty criminal whose actions on the inside has no comparison. The performer within him has free reign here. Seen as a hero by his fellow inmates, pushing the system to it’s limits, and the audience too. As we jump from stage to behind bars. A performer who stands before a loving and imaginary audience who adore his theatricality. A showman emerges in these fantasy sequences that move his life story on, raising his story from newspaper clipping to urban legend.
An incredible film that only stops briefly lets you breather before another chapter in his very violent life. Filmed like a play, allowing us to look in at the eventful life of the wannabe showman. A monster more than a man who knows no bounds. We are left with an image of a man who is to be feared, unpredictable in his nature yet strangely we are intrigued by his motives that you remain a mystery, with all the history he has created, which is probably what he wanted to do all along, to be known and feared and maybe even loved.
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