Thursday, September 5, 2013

"Bronson" (2008) d/ Nicolas Winding Refn

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My introduction to the film work of Danish director Nicolas Winding Refn came a few short weeks ago at the suggestion of one of my more cinema-minded affiliates in the form of his 2011 film, Drive, which I enjoyed greatly, but didn't cover here, as it doesn't really fit the qualifying genre conditions to merit an entry. His 2008 effort, on the other hand, documenting the life story of the most violent prisoner in the history of her Majesty's nick, Michael Peterson aka/ "Charlie Bronson", as portrayed by Tom "Bane" Hardy, fits our cult criteria consummately enough, alright. By the time the end credits rolled, I'd noticed both of my hands had naturally balled into fists from all the pugilistic commotion on the screen I'd just bore witness to. Refn masterfully frames each shot of this bare-knuckle, blood-spattered tough guy bonanza with delicate precision, lending arthouse insight into the complexities of the mind of our mustachioed anti-hero, peppered with punches to the face, and plenty of them.

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"Straitjacket? Fuck. I got into the strawberry preserves anyway, didn't I."
That Michael Peterson (Tom Hardy) is not a singer or actor, is irrelevant to his desire for greatness, as we first see him in a naked scrap with prison guards. From an early age, Peterson shows a propensity to mix it up with all comers, from schoolmates to teachers, who's he's not opposed to smashing with school desks. He blags some cash from a chip shop he works at, in an attempt to impress one of his female co-workers, who ends up becoming his wife and bearing him a child. When domestic life proves too burdensome for him, he robs a post office, earning a seven year prison sentence for himself in the process. Here, he flourishes, a star to the other inmates, for his unpredictably violent episodes that no prison seems capable of quelling. He's eventually sent to Rampton, a mental hospital where his brutal outbursts are met with heavy sedation, but after a seemingly sympathetic paedo suggests that the two men rape a nine year old girl together sometime, he feigns compliance long enough to nearly strangle the fellow patient to death, earning him a trip to Broadmoor, another mental hospital where he instigates a full-scale riot and is seen atop the establishment's smoldering rooftop flashing his trademark double peace signs on the evening news.

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"Ohhhh, my sciatica. Attica! Attica!"
On parole(!) in Luton, he reconnects with an uncle, who gets his feet wet in unlicensed bare-knucle boxing and human-baiting (man vs. vicious dogs, in case you were wondering) and adopts the nickname "Charlie Bronson", before robbing a jeweler to impress another more disinterested young woman this time, earning him a return trip to prison just sixty-nine days after his initial release. Back in the nick, he returns to his greased up, prison guard-throttling, ultra-violent ways and gets his sentence extended. The governor tells Charlie that he can foresee the inmate's death inside if no changes are made, leading him to take up art as a prison hobby, but when his efforts are met with indifference from the officials, he takes it upon himself to kidnap his art teacher, tying him to a post, painting him up like a sculpture complete with an apple in his mouth(!!), before greasing up for the familiar throwdown with the guards once he's had his bit of fun. Finally, we see Bronson, forced to stand bloody and naked in a coffin-shaped cage in solitary, as we're told the inmate hasn't been granted a release date. He seems okay with that...

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"If you continue will die here."
The real life Bronson got over the initial reservation he had towards Hardy in the lead role, meeting with him in prison, even shaving off his trademark handlebar for the actor to use on his own face in the film, and eventually calling him "Britain's number one actor" after finally getting to see the film for himself some three years later. Would you argue with this guy?? Me, neither. The critics were similarly fond of this one, which won Best Film at the 2009 Sydney Film Festival, and was also nominated for a Grand Jury Prize at Sundance the same year. I'm not sure one director has ever made it to my list of current favorites any faster than Refn. If this sort of thing is your speed, too, you'll do well to hunt down a copy and check it out immediately. Three wops on the rating scale and a recommendation. See it!

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"You mind closely examining this deep transverse metacarpal ligament for me, gov?"
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