By Michael Kaye
Welcome to another look back at Nicolas Winding Refn's filmography. Now, I know a lot of younger film fans were introduced to Tom Hardy through his supporting role in Christopher Nolan's film Inception, but his career started much sooner than that. He's been a part of quite a number of films, such as Star Trek Nemesis, Deserter, Black Hawk Down and Layer Cake. Today we're gonna look at one of his best performances in Bronson, the fictionalized biopic based on Britain's most famous prisoner Michael Gordon Peterson.
Here's the story. A young man who was sentenced to 7 years in prison for robbing a post office ends up spending 30 years in solitary confinement. During this time, his own personality is supplanted by his alter ego, Charles Bronson.
This movie was awesome! Having no prior knowledge of Charles Bronson and his incredible legacy made for a very compelling watch. There's a lot to love about this movie, but here are just some of the highlights.
*Possible spoilers ahead*
First off, I stand by what I said in the beginning, this is Tom Hardy at his best. I can't say for sure, but this had to have been the movie that inspired Christopher Nolan to cast him in Inception, for he shows a lot of range here. Hardy must have worked really hard to nail this character, even going as far as visiting the real Charles Bronson in prison. Initially Bronson was against this casting choice, but changed his mind after getting the opportunity to talk to him in person. The other noteworthy performances come from Matt King as the night club Paul Daniels, as well as James Lance as Phil Danielson, the prison art teacher.
Nicolas Winding Refn, you magnificent bastard! I had no idea he had this much this much range when it came to dark comedy, but that just makes me love him even more as a director. The story of Charles Bronson is just so bizarre that of course Refn would be attracted to the idea of adapting it for the big screen. With the exception of the more comedic tone, this movie has a lot of his trademarks, one of which of course is the gratuitous amount of violence. However, unlike Only God Forgives, which sometimes went a little overboard with certain scenes, here it works better with the story he's trying to tell.
The screenplay, co-written by Refn and Brock Norman Brock, is excellent. Having prior experience as a playwright must have helped a great deal with presenting this story, which certainly felt like Hardy was performing on stage. Everything about this movie felt larger than life, which set this apart from most biopics that tend to only tell a straight narrative. This material really allowed Hardy to stretch his acting chops, which is why I feel that this is his best performance.
Finally, I couldn't end this review without talking about the music, and boy did I love Johnny Jewel's music. At least a portion of the movie takes place in the 80's, so Jewel's synth-heavy electronic music fit quite nicely. There's also a great deal of classical music in the film as well that add to its theatricality.
Bronson was not at all what I was expecting, and that is only a compliment. Tom Hardy pulls out all the stops with his performance, while Nicolas Winding Refn succeeds at directing the perfect balance of humor and horror that you don't often see in your traditional biopic. If you're a Tom Hardy fan and you have not seen this movie, you're doing yourself a huge disservice, and you should fix that ASAP.
Now I wanna hear from you guys! Have you seen Bronson, and if so what did you think? Also, what would you consider Tom Hardy's best performance? Drop your thoughts in the comments below, and stay tuned for my next editorial, where I explore which comic book property would best suit Nicolas Winding Refn, while also sharing my brief thoughts on his latest film Neon Demon!