The only reason that I watched Bronson was because I've become a fan of Tom Hardy in recent years. He had a compelling screen presence in films like Inception, Warrior, and The Dark Knight Rises. I stumbled across Bronson on Netflix Streaming and saw where Hardy won a British Independent Spirit Award for his work in this film, and decided to give the movie a watch.
I really disliked the film. It is a character study of Michael Patterson, a petty thief who always worsens his situation by acting out violently -- injuring policemen, prison guards, and fellow inmates alike. He adopts the name "Charles Bronson" after the Death Wish action movie star. He spends a lot of time in solitary confinement, and his extensive jail time far exceeds the penalty for the crimes that caused him to be incarcerated. The prison system tried to palm him off to the mental health system by pronouncing him crazy, but that didn't last long. Bronson became Britain's most famous -- and violent -- criminal. The only reason offered up for Bronson's behavior was his desire to be famous.
Hardy delivers an admittedly powerful performance. I hated the character, which always makes viewing a film difficult. The script was weak as well. The movie uses a device where Bronson addresses a fictional audience, and the movie audience as well, to punctuate the events of his life. Hardy is also the only actor in the movie with whose work I am familiar. His street-wise British accent was so thick that at times I wished that I had been using subtitles. It took real effort to understand Hardy, and in that regard the movie reminded me of Sexy Beast, though Sexy Beast is a far more interesting film.
Bronson is the second film that I've seen by up-and-coming acclaimed director Nicolas Winding Refn. In the fall of 2011, I saw Refn's Drive. I admired a lot of Drive, even though I stop short of recommending that film. Drive has a lot more style to it; Bronson doesn't have anything of merit in it except a fearless performance by Hardy.
Bronson was surprisingly well-reviewed, but I found it to be an excessive exercise without substance. Character studies rarely make good movies. Good drama needs to have a point, and Bronson as a film doesn't have much to say at all. It doesn't entertain, and the re-watchability factor for me is non-existent. I don't mind violence in films where it serves the story like in a Quentin Tarantino movie, for example. There's really no story in Bronson. I suppose it's an important film in the oeuvre of Tom Hardy, and someday it may show how far Refn has matured as a director. Skip this one, though. There are too many far better films to see. Grade: D-.
I watched Bronson on March 9, 2013 via Netflix Streaming.