BRONSON (cue “Digital Versicolor” by Glass Candy)
While non-Americans win very few of the top acting awards at the Oscars, we see it happen from time to time (Daniel Day-Lewis, Roberto Benigni, etc). As a result, I’d love to see Tom Hardy, the English actor who brilliantly portrays Michael Gordon Pederson in Bronson, be considered for an Oscar next spring for his performance in this film. He has an excellent chance of winning – because if he’s not nominated, he’ll probably brutally murder half of the members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences…
First, you have to understand that this is a fairly accurate biopic of Pederson’s exploits in and out of prison (but mostly in). I only found out after I’d seen the movie that this was based on real events, and I can assure you that this man is the epitome of a nightmare. He represents the beast that lives within every human being and the potential danger that any of us can cause when pushed to our limits. As his alter-ego Charles Bronson (a name and persona his fight promoter gave him during the brief time he spent as a free man), Pederson did most of his damage throughout the 70s and 80s, spending time in over 120 different prisons and taking countless guards and prisoners hostage. His fragile psychological state, as personified by Hardy, would often lead him on a rollercoaster of emotions but more often than not he would revert to a violent state. In order to adequately bulk-up for the role, Hardy had to do 2500 push-ups a day for five weeks, and he also met with the real Pederson in prison in order to get a grasp of his real mindset. Not an easy task, I assume, since the man embodies the worst kind of demon imaginable.
Hardy, whom we last saw in RocknRolla, busts out an amazing performance and shares honors with Christoph Waltz (Inglourious Basterds) as the actors who’ve impressed me the most this year so far. Pederson, who has been called “the most violent prisoner in Britain,” is depicted by Hardy as an arrogant and deranged monster whose only goal is to stay in prison (his “hotel room”) and challenge himself against the various guards in the building. It’s where he finds himself most comfortable, inside his own little world, his element. His attitude discharges charisma and bravado, not unlike Malcolm McDowell’s character in A Clockwork Orange. Therefore it’s no wonder Bronson has drawn many comparisons to Orange.
Dutch director Nicolas Winding Refn appropriates many themes and styles often used by his colleagues Guy Ritchie (slow-motion fight scenes), Oliver Stone (animated cut-scenes) and Stanley Kubrick (coupling classical music with extreme violence), but the homage to the 1971 cult-classic is particularly noticeable. Some examples include the numerous “Kubrick stares” throughout the film, and many scenes were shot with a Steadicam, a camera stabilizing mount Kubrick would employ to shoot scenes in long hallways.
The soundtrack is especially engaging, as Refn mixes classical music with electro pop, which is about as unorthodox as you can get nowadays. It’s especially refreshing to see how Refn utilizes his songs to counterbalance the moments of sheer brutality. The banality of it all is not only reminiscent of A Clockwork Orange but also of 12 Monkeys and Natural Born Killers. There’s even a dash of Pet Shop Boys here and there and although I disliked their live performance at the Virgin Festival in Toronto, I have a newfound admiration for It’s A Sin.
Combining stage with screen, Hardy and Refn have created a truly engaging portrayal of Pederson’s high-spirited life. I was completely immersed within this man’s unique view of the world, and the difficulties he hasattempting to remain sane. I highly commend Hardy’s performance in an intricate role that any high-ranking Hollywood actor would have undoubtedly botched, and I look forward to his next role as “Eames” in Christopher Nolan’s upcoming Inception.