Friday, April 4, 2014

Swagger and Bombast: Winding Refn's Bronson

Movie Review: Bronson

Director: Nicolas Winding Refn

Reviewed: 4 April 2014

jamesintexas rating-- ***

Thomas Hardy is an unqualified star, and as Great Britain's most notorious prisoner, the eponymous self-titled Bronson, he shines in muscular glory, sheer bravado, and complete fearlessness. For whatever faults the film may have as a whole, the lead performance cannot be faulted: Hardy stalks the screen like a tiger, ferocious and anarchic. With obvious debts to A Clockwork Orange, Winding Refn structures the film unusually with its lead character as circus ringleader, complete with strongman mustache too impeccable to be believed, addressing the audience directly as well as an imagined theater full of tuxedoed personages. I found myself swept up in its kinetic storytelling early on, and its spell did not break until Bronson finds himself trapped in a mental institution about 45 minutes into the film. Bronson's stints in prison, the result of a minor offence, result in a sort of institutional madness and pugnaciousness that result in a frothing, naked, bloody Bronson taking on all of his captors battle royale style as much as possible (resulting in eventual and excessive solitary confinement).

I enjoyed the disjointed structure of the film, the color palette used by Winding Refn, and the sneering lead performance. Where I found myself wanting more insight into the lead character's psychology as well as a greater social context. Without it, the film seems incomplete and demands further study of this real-life character. There is enough here to recommend it, but I think its ambition and losing of its way prevent it from greatness.

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