Tuesday, November 24, 2009


site | trailer
Thumbs-up for style (gritty in a slick, cool way), an irresistible lead, and a charismatic dangerous character.

"Based on a true story." That's what the trailer and the film tell us. My friend looked up some info about the film's premiere and told me that there was a bit of hubbub about how a pretty significant chapter of Bronson's life, as depicted in the film, never actually happened. I don't know what to think about that, but I'll say that I really enjoyed the film, more for its subject and style than anything you'd call a plot. If you appreciate CLOCKWORK ORANGE and cool cinematography and art design, you will dig this.

The lead, Tom Hardy, is amazing. Visually, his appearance as Bronson is at times cartoony, and at others, like sculpture, but always irresistible. The camera loves him, and almost treats him like a fetish. His performance, to my mind, perfect, larger-than-life.

The film introduces us to Bronson standing in a spotlight on stage in a posh theater addressing an audience ready for a night at the opera. From this stage, Bronson tells us the story of his life, and the film fades into and out of this arena between chapters.

I hafta say, there's a ghostly and dramatic quality to the dissolves in this film. Something I don't remember seeing, or at least noticing, in other films. If I ever get to watch this on DVD, I'll hafta remember to pay more attention.

He was born Michael Peterson, and took Charlie Bronson as his fighting name. He explains how he wasn't a bad boy, at least, not bad-bad. You might say he was a bit restless, and a lot prone to leading with his fists. When he steps into something like adulthood and tries his hand as responsible family provider, he takes a larcenous wrong turn into prison.

Behind bars, he seems to find a calling. Not a plan, mind you, but something that he revels in, and has opportunity to revel in—violence. The film follows his journey thru the British penal system, including an asylum for the criminally insane. Our host Bronson boasts about how his violent escapades cost the Crown so much that it chose to release him as "Sane" rather than continue to see to his care and feeding in rehabilitation and incarceration.

In at least two instances, people tell Bronson directly that he has no ambition. He has some potential, but any time he comes close to setting his foot on a path, even a sketchy one (bare-knuckles fighting), he shoots himself in that foot. He's most comfortable and at ease while in conflict, fighting, or waiting to fight, or healing from a fight. He doesn't have an agenda, a cause, or a plan. He doesn't really stand for anything. The warden dresses him down pretty good at one point, throwing "nihilistic" at him in his delivery.

I was hoping for A CLOCKWORK ORANGE, and the pieces, of plot and theme, are all there, but the story isn't quite up to it. Cinematic style goes a long way toward making up for that shortfall, tho.

*SPOILER* I won't give up any details of where the film and Bronson's story go, but I will mention a couple of things that go missing along the way. More for my own poor memory than anything else. I really wanted to see the drawing that Bronson gave to the warden. I also really wanted him to reconnect with or at least acknowledge his first wife and child. Oh, I'm also really curious about whether the filmmakers used Bronson's actual artwork on screen.

*SPOILER* A moment I'd like to remember later. After Bronson gives the warden his drawing (and the warden tells him he will look at it later), Bronson's art therapist rants about how the warden doesn't know how important their work is, and how Bronson is a star and they'll show everyone. Bronson takes issue with the therapist's use of "we," and a couple minutes later, Charlie takes him out. As the therapist falls, with Bronson's arms around his head, the film cuts to Bronson on stage, standing before the thunderous applause and approval of the fancy pants audience. This really struck me. This appreciation and approval by the tuxedo set for the destruction of this bleeding-heart-artist-therapist at the hands of his patient, the patient who stands before them as their entertainment. It's a bit chilling. Is the therapist the filmmaker? And are you the therapist or the audience?

Also, the musical selections are pretty awesome.

Thanks to Ann and Erin for spotting. =)

Keep on keepin on~

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