Bronson (2008)

<strong class="MovieTitle">Bronson</strong> (2008)

(Crackle Streaming, July 2017) I’ve seen four movies from writer/director Nicolas Wendign Refn so far, and Bronson may be my favourite. But keep in mind that I don’t particularly like Refn’s stuff: There is something about Refn’s use of ultraviolence and his refusal to emphasize plot that I find off-putting. Only God Forgives was dull, Neon Demon wasn’t interested in its own horror story, and Drive … eh, it was good but not as good as advertised. Bronson, in comparison, seems to acknowledge its own artificiality in presenting a stylized vision of a British criminal’s life: Bronson-as-narrator (impressively played by Tom Hardy) addresses the audience, literally plays to a theatre audience and presents the highlights of his life in a deliberately exaggerated fashion. It works, but its humour is tempered by the inherent violence of Bronson’s character, as likely to smile at others than to beat them unconscious at the slightest provocation. The presence of a visible narrator does change the rhythm of the film compared to other biopics: it removes the need for obligatory connecting sequences and allows the film to span decades in just 90 minutes. There’s something honest in the way Bronson falsely idolizes its subject, giving him the loudest megaphone to indulge in rough humour and winner-takes-all rhetoric, but allowing viewers to realize how insane Bronson can be in doing so. In allowing such a full-throated voice to the criminal, it also allows a far better representation of its subject than conventional tut-tutting biopics. (Also see The Wolf of Wall Street as another example.) Not necessarily pleasant, but certainly unique, Bronson is the second of Refn’s films, after Drive, that I’m conventionally glad to have seen rather than checking off a box in a list.

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