banner image

:: Bronson

I was apprehensive about watching this film. I don’t have the stomach for violent movies (read: I’m a wuss). This is a flick based on the real-life story of Britain’s most violent prisoner, Charles Bronson. So, perhaps I should have watched the trailer before accepting the invite. However, the film’s notes on his character and life story hooked me in.

Originally sentenced to jail for seven years for a bungled armed robbery, Bronson, through various misdemeanours, winds up spending thirty-four years in prison – thirty of those in solitary confinement. Now fifty-six years of age, he remains a “Category A” prisoner, where he is still in solitary confinement. Throughout his incarceration, he has been subject to both physical and psychological brutality. Still, despite being super aggressive in the past, he is said to have shown no sign of violence for the last seven years. His unique art now occupies him, with it being sent to all corners of the globe. Bronson has also published eleven books, including Solitary Fitness, detailing an individual training process with minimal resources and space. He regularly performs 2500 press-ups a day.

Despite his intriguing transformation, the film mostly looks at his life in the lead-up to this. It is a violent story. Luckily for me though, the violence is stylised, often set to music or laced with humour, rather than being gratuitous, so it is palatable. Although it is a rather oddball, gritty movie, it does have you on the edge of your seat (I was reluctant to take a quick toilet break during the film). Plus, you can’t help but like Bronson’s slightly oafish character – a man of few words, who talks through his fists. It haunts you long after you leave the cinema.

One question that lingers in the air is what encourages Bronson, who had a run-of-the-mill upbringing, to live so aggressively. Director Nicolas Winding Refn answers that question interestingly, describing Bronson as an artist, searching for his canvas. “An artist tries many things. You’re erratic, violent, crazy and you want to destroy until you find that place… So, I came up with the idea that he wants something. He wants music. He has emotions to create and needs a canvas to do that on.” Indeed.

Bronson will be showing in limited release at Dendy Newtown in Sydney from August 6.

Bronson is to screen at the Melbourne International Film Festival which will be held from July 24 to August 9, 2009. The director Nicolas Winding Refn will present his film as a guest of MIFF.