Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Nicolas Winding Refn|
|Produced by||Rupert Preston
|Written by||Brock Norman Brock
Nicolas Winding Refn
|Music by||Johnny Jewel|
|Edited by||Matthew Newman|
|Distributed by||Vertigo Films
|Running time||92 minutes|
Bronson is a 2008 British fictionalised biographical psychological drama film co-written and directed by Nicolas Winding Refn and starring Tom Hardy. The film follows the life of notorious prisoner Michael Gordon Peterson, who was renamed Charles Bronson by his fight promoter. Born into a respectable middle-class family, Peterson would nevertheless become one of the United Kingdom's most dangerous criminals, and is known for having spent almost his entire adult life in solitary confinement. Bronson is narrated with humour, blurring the line between comedy and horror.
The film begins with Bronson introducing himself to the camera, stating he always wanted to be famous. He cannot sing, he cannot act, and so he shows the calling he found: the film cuts to a naked Bronson fighting several prison guards in a cage. The film then presents several assorted points from his life, intercut with Bronson on stage before an audience in several stages of performance make-up, and speaking directly to camera while seemingly behind bars.
Michael Peterson is shown as a baby, and then as a young boy involved in fights with pupils and a teacher at school using a desk as a weapon. He had his first job at a chip shop, where he committed his first crime, stealing money from the cash register and giving some of the money and a kiss to a young woman who was working there. He then goes on to marry the woman, Irene, and has a baby with her.
Peterson goes to jail after robbing a post office and getting away with a small amount of cash. Peterson thrives in prison, comparing it to a hotel room, and every night he displays violent behaviour towards the guards, which causes the other inmates to treat him like a star. The authorities send him to a series of different prisons in hope that one of them will be able to handle him, but nothing seems to help. Eventually he is sent to Rampton Secure Hospital, where he is injected with high doses of sedative drugs every time he tries to start a fight. A man approaches Peterson while he is being subdued with drugs and seems to be sympathetic to Peterson. This soon changes as the man, John White, reveals that he is a paedophile that raped a nine-year-old girl. The furious Peterson expresses aggressive hate towards the man, but is unable to do anything against him. In an attempt to gain notoriety again, he finally tries to strangle the paedophile after pretending to be calm for several days. Because of this he is sent to the high-security psychiatric hospital, Broadmoor, where he starts a large-scale riot. News footage from the actual event shows Peterson up on the roof, thus being branded "Her Majesty's most expensive prisoner" but is released back into the general population.
While on parole and living with his uncle in Luton, he becomes involved in bareknuckle boxing and human baiting and changes his name to Charles "Charlie" Bronson, after the famous actor. This career ends quickly after he falls in love with a younger woman, steals an engagement ring, proposes to her and is arrested for robbery just after she rejects him. Bronson was out of prison for only 69 days.
Back in prison, he is once again involved in several fights with guards, thus extending his sentence. The character of his violent outbursts starts to become more sophisticated. At one event he holds a prison officer hostage before stripping naked and covering himself in butter to fight the riot officers. The governor tells him: "If you continue this, you will die here." He becomes interested in art, which the prison officials think is a good way to develop his interacting skills with other human beings. Eventually this project gets out of hand when Bronson holds his art teacher hostage, strips naked, ties the teacher to a pole, puts an apple in his mouth, and paints the hostage's face, before the governor sends in the guards who, by superior numbers, detain Bronson.
The film closes by telling us that Charles Bronson has not been granted a release date, and he is seen badly beaten, his chin torn, groaning, in what is effectively a cage coffin in the centre of a large, dark room.
- Tom Hardy as Michael Peterson a.k.a. Charles Bronson
- Matt King as Paul Daniels, nightclub owner and former fellow prisoner
- James Lance as Phil Danielson, prison art teacher
- Amanda Burton as Charlie's Mum
- Kelly Adams as Irene Peterson, Charlie's wife
- Juliet Oldfield as Alison, Charlie's lover
- Jonathan Phillips as the Prison Governor
- Mark Powley as Prison Officer Andy Love
- Hugh Ross as Uncle Jack
- Joe Tucker as John White, fellow patient in Rampton
- Gordon Brown as Screw, the first guard Bronson fights
For his role in the movie, Hardy had telephone conversations with the real Charles Bronson, before meeting him in person. During their meetings Bronson was so impressed by how Hardy had managed to build up his physique for the role and how good he was at imitating him that he shaved off his trademark moustache so that it could be made into a loose-moustache for Hardy to use in the film. The movie was filmed in and around the St. Ann's, Sherwood, Worksop and Welbeck Abbey areas of Nottingham and Nottinghamshire. The post office shown at the beginning of the film is located in Lostwithiel, Cornwall.
Director Nicolas Winding Refn was not permitted to visit Bronson in prison because he is not from Britain. He was only allowed two phone calls with him.
Bronson opened in a single theater in North America and made $10,940. The film ended up earning $104,979 in the U.S with the widest release being in 10 theaters. Internationally it made $2,155,733 for a total of $2,260,712
Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a "Certified Fresh" score of 78% based on reviews from 76 critics, with an average rating of 6.6 out of 10 with the consensus "Undeniably gripping, Bronson forces the viewer to make some hard decisions about where the line between art and exploitation lies." Metacritic gives the film a "generally favourable" average score of 71 based on 22 reviews.
Roger Ebert gave the film three stars out of four and praised the decision not to attempt to rationalise and explain Bronson's behaviour stating in his review "I suppose, after all, Nicolas Winding Refn, the director and co-writer of "Bronson," was wise to leave out any sort of an explanation. Can you imagine how you'd cringe if the film ended in a flashback of little Mickey undergoing childhood trauma? There is some human behavior beyond our ability to comprehend. I was reading a theory the other day that a few people just happen to be pure evil. I'm afraid I believe it. They lack any conscience, any sense of pity or empathy for their victims. But Bronson is his own victim. How do you figure that?"
Charles Bronson was not initially allowed to view the film, but had said that if his mum liked it he was sure he would as well. According to Nicolas Winding Refn's commentary track on the DVD his mother said she loved it. On 15 November 2011, he was granted permission to view it. Describing it as "theatrical, creative, and brilliant", Bronson heaped praise upon his portrayer, Hardy, but disagreed on the implied distance between himself and his father and the portrayal of Paul Edmunds as "a bit of a ponce." Nevertheless, he challenged his own family's reaction to the portrayal of his Uncle Jack, stating that he "loved" it, as would Jack himself. Bronson had been originally displeased with the choice of Hardy, but after their first physical meeting, Hardy assured him that he would "fix it." As proven, Bronson's development in trust in Hardy's acting grew, even describing him as "Britain's No. 1 actor."
- "Bronson". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 26 November 2011.
- "Film-makers invest millions in Notts". Thisisnottingham.co.uk. Retrieved 25 November 2011.
- "Bronson (2008)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 14 November 2012.
- "Bronson". Metacritic.