Directed by Nicolas Winding Refn. With Tom Hardy, Matt King, and James Lance. R (profanity, nudity, sexual situations, graphic violence). 1 hour, 32 mins. Playing at: Ritz at the Bourse.
Bloody, bruising, and indelible, this film follows the claustrophobic career of Britain's most notorious convict. It is based on the life of Michael Peterson, a yob who found his calling after being jailed for armed robbery as a teenager. He resolved to gain fame as "Britain's most violent prisoner." Adopting the name of steely American action star Charles Bronson, he turned himself into a human battering ram, pounding on everyone within arms' distance. Prison authorities shackled him, clubbed him, drugged him, even trussed him up like Hannibal Lecter, but they could not subdue his feral spirit. Is he a psycho or a man determined to inhabit the cartoonish tough-guy persona he created for himself? Probably the former. With a shaved head and handlebar mustache, Tom Hardy (Band of Brothers) gives a ferocious performance as the volcanic title character, a man who is profoundly uncomfortable in his brief interludes out of prison. In Dutch director Nicolas Winding Refn's vision, Bronson imagines his cell as a kind of stage. Well, the guy had better find a way to entertain himself - he's been in solitary confinement for 30 of the 34 years he's been incarcerated. The tone is surreal, at once visceral and clinical, making Bronson an unsettling experience: savage, disturbing, and yet somehow fascinating.