I first discovered Nicolas Winding Refn at last years Toronto International Festival. I caught a screening of his entry Valhalla Rising, and while…interesting, I wasn’t blown away. I did see enough though, that I thought I might like to catch his earlier Pusher Trilogy. Those I liked: raw, gritty and with a dose of humor. Free form film-making.
Bronson is more contained, but in an operatic kind of way. In a highly stylized vision Refn presents us with the sociopath, Bronson. Tom Hardy, who plays the real-life British criminal Bronson, is a manic avenging angel. It was a stroke of genius to have filmed this primarily as a narration cum stage show, ala Casey Affleck’s Bob Ford in The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. While there’s no disguising that Bronson is just plain whacked, telling his own story humanizes this demon in surprising ways. You may question why you end up sort of liking this guy, but you kinda do. There’s one riotous scene in which he interviews himself, pancake made up on two sides of his face, that’s chilling in its audacity.
One of the great criminal character studies you need to see this if only for Tom Hardy’s tour de force performance.