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Review: Bronson

Charles Bronson was originally born Michael Peterson in a small village in Great Britain. After he knocked over a post office, Peterson heads off to prison. This is about where the break between Charles Bronson the man and Charles Bronson the character occurs.

Tom Hardy's Bronson could not be described as anything other than unstable. Whether out of boredom or a thirst for fame, Bronson decides prison is chance at the big time. A few thousand years ago, Charles Bronson would have felt more than comfortable in a gladiatorial contest. Beating man after man down for the sheer thrill of the audience. There is nothing equatable to that in the modern world.

Nicolas Winding Refn protagonists (and I use that term very loosely) are not from a practiced reality. They are unconventional and often hard to connect with. Bronson fits that template to the T. This is a man who at spontaneous intervals decides to strip down and take on entire staffs of prison guards. His definition of armor: black paint and skin lotion. His only weapons: his two bare hands. He is frequently over-matched though the game is never made any less entertaining if he loses.

Why Bronson chooses to fight constantly is any viewer's guess. The pure adrenaline thrill is easy to see, but what it costs him could not possibly be worth it. The applause following underground fights is fleeting and the pay for getting into a match with two dogs is never enough. For as entertaining as Tom Hardy's portrayal of the character is, the barrier between Bronson and the audience is too large to bridge. The film operates on a purely visceral level where the action onscreen proves exciting, but leaves nothing to connect to afterward.

While Charles Bronson has a glorified profile, he really is just a bruiser, and the tale of a bruiser is hard to translate.

Refn utilizes a visual flow scored to the sounds of Gattaca while Bronson beats others to a pulp. Whatever may be lacking from Bronson is certainly not on the cinematography. Every drop of blood or spittle splashes with flourish. Working from a limited palette in the insides of a dank prison cell and the similarly limited color scheme of a strip club where Mickey Peterson becomes Bronson. Refn has become associated with violent genre flicks, but if given more of a story to work with he could turn in something very special.

**1/2 out of ****

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