If there was any doubt in my mind, up to this point, that Nicolas Winding Refn was abducted as a baby by Redcap pixies and replaced with a changeling that was subsequently raised on a diet of Gorgon’s milk and LSD, that doubt has now been banished by the crushing weight of empirical evidence. Anyone unfortunate enough to have been exposed to my twitter-feed a few months back when I watched Valhalla Rising can probably attest to the unique blend of horror, confusion, and curiously detached boredom that Refn’s films elicit. I suppose one should be wary from the outset of people who go by three names, a warning that could well have been heeded by a number of former US presidents.
Like Valhalla Rising before it, Bronson opens with, and frequently features, brutal violence, in this case meted out by a gleeful, moustachioed Tom Hardy, who does not so much own the role, as grab the role by its neck, throttle it to within an inch of its life and otherwise make it his bitch. In a delightful departure from Valhalla Rising, the main character in Bronson actually gets some dialogue, as well as some monologue and some rather fetching face-paint. As narrator he shares the story of his rise to fame within Her Majesty’s criminal justice system and the birth of his alter ego. There’s some confusion on the exact sequence of the latter, but it wouldn’t really be a Nicolas Winding Refn film if there weren’t some confusion about something. In the end, though, the thing that confused me the most was how anyone could make a movie with so much violence in it so boring.
As far as plot goes everything that happens in the movie that isn’t Hardy taking his clothes off and beating up prison guards is a vehicle to transition between scenes of Hardy taking his clothes off and beating up prison guards. There are a couple of touching hostage-taking scenes, and a handful of lines of wryly humorous and thoroughly enjoyable dialogue, but they’re spread pretty thin on the stale toast of violence. Hardy is the highlight; his portrayal of the world’s most dapperly moustached acid-nightmare is stunning. His moustache is also quite awesome, but I’d better leave that point alone or people might start to think I’m some kind of weird moustache fetishist… But really, I’m looking for nice things to say about this film because I feel bad for it. The only other nice thing I can say is that it had some pretty good cinematography and editing, another thing it has in common with Valhalla Rising. And, like Valhalla Rising, cool shooting, a well-played crazy violent dude, and the occasional moments of dark humour were not enough to save it from being a little too much like a trip you wish you weren’t on. My main concern now is what happened to the poor baby that was kidnapped so this Redcap fiend could take its place.
The Verdict: 1.5 Moustachioed psychopaths out of 5.