Bronson – Staged Violence

This movie had been sitting in my Netflix queue for over two years I think. Not sure what took so long in making the leap to actually sit down and watch it, but I finally made it happen. It has a runtime of 1 hour, 32 minutes. And boy do I wish I could get that time back. Alright that is an exaggeration. It’s not like I was miserable while watching the 2008 Nicolas Winding Refn film. But with Drive being one of my absolute favorites, I certainly went in with expectations that weren’t exactly met.

There are aspects that I appreciated. The jumping scenes between the sort of flashback-esque bio-piece contrasted well with the fast-forwarded dual narrations of Bronson in his cell and on his stage. But all in all, the entire movie felt a bit like a student film. I’m sure Refn could support his use of gritty cinematography and odd camera angles as devices that better characterized Bronson’s chaotic life, but ultimately they pulled the immersion out from under me. Tom Hardy is undoubtedly a brilliant actor. It was not because of him (or Patrick Stewart, or Frakes, or any of the other actors) that caused Star Trek: Nemesis to be so terrible. But the overly gritty style and cartoonish side characters made the entire movie feel very much like a middle school play. It’s a feeling that I can’t exactly define, but it is shared almost identically by Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs. The theatricality, which is of course accented further by the literal stage presence of Hardy, is not necessarily a bad thing on its own. But it exudes a lomographic sense of point and shoot, unimportant scenery made from the scraps of stages and sets of other unrelated works.

I read a few reviews that complained about the Bronson‘s portrayal of brutality and violence, as if that was all the film was about. These people are wrong, sure. It’s easy to look past the violence and see the story isn’t about violence itself, but about the chaos that exists in this world and how it can inhabit us all at times. And how it can inhabit someone like Bronson all the time. There are systems at work that the normal citizen never has to witness, but that doesn’t necessarily make the systems right. Ok, sure Refn, we got it. But my biggest beef with this story (other than the gratuitous amount of penis thrown my way) is why do we need to see this story? Bronson is part of a broken system, or perhaps he is the one that breaks it himself. But the normal person never even sees the edge of such a world of mayhem and bureaucratic nonsense, let alone feel the need to rebel against it. The character of Bronson fails to garner empathy, as do any of his compatriots throughout the film. We witness one exceedingly strange, apathetic character after another, whether it be his seedy swinging uncle or the carelessly negotiating governor. Bronson is an erratic meteor streaking through an asteroid field of independent planets. He doesn’t have the gravity or the momentum to affect any of these other bodies to any tangible degree, so we have to wonder why we’re being forced to watch him and his antics. He is portrayed as a criminal, but isn’t exactly organized enough to  get into any amount of terrible trouble. His stage act makes him the stringless puppet for a shadowy audience, but the crowd’s reactions to his performance are obscure and arbitrary at best. No avenue within the story seems to open to any real destination, and by the end of the movie, I felt as if I was just starting it from the beginning again. And by this, I mean that I had really learned nothing.

The character of Charlie Bronson was far from engaging, the plot was erratic, and the story arc was a pothole. I give Bronson a whopping 3/10.

I wouldn’t suggest it, but you can click the link below to find the film on Amazon.

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