What I Watched Last Night: Bronson (2008) w/ commentary

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Word has it that Brit method actor Tom Hardy is about to step into the shoes (both pairs) of infamous London gangsters the Kray twins in upcoming crime biopic Legend. The planned production is being both penned and directed by Brian Helgeland, who wrote the screenplay for sizzling noir throwback L.A Confidential,  and with Hardy as his front’men’, it sounds like a cracker. Coincidentally, back in 2008 Tom Hardy portrayed ‘Britain’s Most Dangerous Criminal’ Charles Bronson, a dear friend and fellow cell mate of the Kray Twins during their visits to the Grey Bar Hotel. Could Hardy play Bronson too? Joking aside, an unlikely reprisal would be better than watching another man try to top his tour de force while in his very presence, something that could only end in embarrassment. And probably some crust-bashing.

Following on from this 2 for 1 casting news, Movie Quibble decided to revisit Nicolas Winding Refn’s second best film (after Valhalla Rising,  of course) and give the commentary a quick listen. Bronson  is a quasi-truthful balls to the wall drama which incorporates the classical craftsmanship of Kubrick with the screwy temperaments of a Terry Gilliam dream world. Tom Hardy gives all and bares all as the titular convict, a man so fierce he is restrained by up to eight guards and housed alone in a super-secure 8 by 8 ‘concrete coffin’. Refn came under fire for glorifying the prison psycho, especially after his victims spoke out in the press about their trauma at his hands. Bronson does not endorse violence, in fact quite the opposite is true; it is not a biography, nor even a hagiography, it’s just one director’s take on the delusions and deviations of a man on the edge.  Strikingly lurid and about as brutal as a Rottweiler having it’s oesophagus torn out, Bronson  truly is ‘madness at its best’.

Below are the highlights from the DVD commentary, which was recorded a day after the London premiere and which features Director Nicolas Winding Refn and film critic/ fellow cinephile Alan Jones.

– Somehow, Refn snuck in a ten minute introduction to the film from the real life Charlie Bronson, which was recorded over the phone. The Home Office were soon in contact.

Bronson  is not a biopic ‘of Michael Peterson (Bronson’s birth name) but a film about the concept of becoming Charles Bronson the legend.

– The film was shot in reverse chronology because Tom Hardy’s hard earned musculature deteriorated over the course of filming. Shooting this way ensured that he has most bulk at the height of his in film infamy.

– Refn spoke to Bronson for just 20 minutes (‘He was very nice to me’), and he professes no understanding of the underlying causes of his violent recidivism. This film is about a performer trying to find his stage – for Tom Hardy’s fictional Bronson, his art forms are solitary confinement and prison punch ups.

-Refn: ‘I have a very dark side unfortunately, which I’m trying to exorcise through my films’. Dark side, really? Nobody would have guessed that, especially not when they watched Pusher 3  and saw a man hung on a meat hook and disembowelled, all on screen, before having his various bits and bobs rammed down a sink.

– Jason Statham and Guy Pearce were the two primary choices for the role of Bronson. Refn had offered Hardy the role initially, but decided he didn’t like him when the rising star arranged their meeting to take place a dodgy Soho wine bar.

– ‘More picturesque, more operatic’… Refn tried to recreate the visual and musical influences of Kenneth Anger and Stanley Kubrick.

– Instead of ‘Action’, Refn prefers to shout ‘Let’s fuck!’

– When Alan Jones mentions that certain shots and scene arrangements have a striking resemblance to Lolita  and  A Clockwork Orange,  Refn replies; ‘You better steal from the best!’

-‘All my movies have a moral ending. You live, and you die how you lived’.

– And the winning quote is: ‘Shit! Just tie him to the goddam pole!’

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Thanks, and come again!

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