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Film: Bronson

"My name's Charles Bronson. And all my life, I've wanted to be famous."

Bronson is the story of Britain's most violent and most expensive prisoner: Charles Bronson (no, not that Bronson), played by Tom Hardy and directed by Nicolas Winding Refn.

Michael Gordon Peterson is a seemingly average man living in England in the 1970s. He describes his upbringing as typical, his parents as principled. After marrying a sweetheart and having a child, he saws off a double-barreled shotgun and robs a post-office. He's caught and arrested soon after, and sentenced to seven years in prison. He soon finds that prison isn't that bad of a place to be. In fact, it's rather like a hotel, where you can eat and sleep for free for as long as society dictates. Soon enough, Michael doesn't just like prison; he loves it. And what's more, he's determined to be a star.

The film is violent, uncompromising, and very, very darkly humorous. It's presented not as the real-life story of Bronson, but as Bronson's story of Bronson. In taking on this viewpoint, the film aims to explore just why Bronson does the things he does, as well as bring attention to the bizarre hypocrisies that his actions expose.

This film provides examples of:

  • Adaptation Distillation: The film focuses in on Bronson's more violent episodes.
  • Adorkable: Astonishingly, Bronson actually seemed quite shy around the woman he claimed to love, and came across as rather timid and sweet (not to mention much less violent).
  • Attention Whore: The only consistent theme through Bronson's various contradictory and unprovoked attacks seems to be that he wants to make sure people know who he is.
  • Ax-Crazy: Bronson is more than willing to punch out, strangle, or take hostage anyone who he feels has wronged him.
  • Badass Mustache: Bronson wears a signature handlebar mustache, which is Truth in Television, a probable vestige of his days working as a carnival strongman. Interestingly, Bronson himself says in the introductory audio that it is his moustache on-screen; he claims that he shaved it off and gave it to Hardy on one of his visits to him.
  • Bald of Awesome: Bronson's shaved head is part of his signature look.
  • Bedlam House: The two mental hospitals Bronson gets sent to had horrible reputations for this.
  • Crossdresser: After leaving prison he meets a few that are friends of his agent.
  • Didn't Think This Through: Something of a trademark for Bronson. The best example of this is when he takes the prison librarian hostage, and when asked what he wants, he's genuinely stumped. Pretty much all of his other crimes have this trope as a factor too.
  • Dyeing for Your Art: Tom Hardy got huge for this movie.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Whether or not Bronson is evil is up for debate, but he's certainly not okay with a fellow inmate suggesting he partake in raping a young girl with him.
  • The Farmer and the Viper: Any attempts by a member the prison authorities to be nice to Bronson seem to be met with this; both the prison librarian and the art teacher end up being terrorised victims in his hostage-taking escapades despite never personally wronging him. While the art teacher may have angered Bronson by getting too chummy, it seems that Bronson was just taking out his anger at the warden/system/world on him just because he was there. There is no sign at all that the librarian did anything whatsoever to upset Bronson at all.
  • Fight Clubbing: During his brief odyssey outside of prison, Bronson tries to make a go as a bareknuckle boxer, fighting dogs and local gypsies.
  • Fight Magnet: Bronson, full stop; mostly because he wants it though.
  • Framing Device: Bronson on a stage, as if preforming a one man show in front of a high society crowd.
  • Freudian Excuse: Averted. Bronson was born into a stable, middle-class home.
  • Full-Frontal Assault: Twice. Bronson strips naked and greases himself up before fights to make it harder for the guards to grab a hold of him.
  • Heel Face Door Slam: The authorities might have actually had a chance at reforming Bronson during his art phase: he genuinely showed artistic talent and he seemed satisfied with pursuing art as a vocation. However, the warden of the prison basically dismissed his art without even looking at it... which led to Bronson just thinking "fuck this", kidnapping his art teacher and submitting him to the Rene Magritte treatment.
  • Hellhole Prison: Broadmoor is implied to be such, but never actually shown, except in the real life clips of the large scale riot he orchestrated.
  • Hypocritical Humor: Bronson strips naked and demands that a man grease him up, then begins accusing him of being homosexual.
  • Iconic Outfit: Bronson's handlebar mustache and John Lennon round mirrored shades are so synonymous with him, one of the movie posters actually feature it as an abstract representation of him.
  • Instant Sedation: At the psychiatric hospital, this is how they deal with him after he refuses to take his pills, though it does take a few seconds before he stops struggling.
  • I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: When Alison, Bronson's girlfriend, tells him that she's marrying the other man she's been seeing, Bronson handles it surprisingly well, and congratulates her with forced good humour rather than the sort of explosive reaction one might expect.
  • Might as Well Not Be in Prison at All: Less chessmaster than usual for this trope, but he still does just as well inside as he does outside.
  • Mind Screw: Why Bronson does anything is a mystery for the ages, and the film's revolving around him makes it inevitable for it to approach this.
  • Mood Whiplash: Invoked within the first two minutes. While talking to the audience, Charlie cackles maniacally, and then suddenly delivers a Death Glare.
  • Morality Pet: Bronson seems genuinely devoted to Alison, being surprisingly Adorkable around her and doesn't even seem to consider showing her his more aggressive side.
  • Name's the Same: Michael Peterson takes the "fighting name" Charles Bronson during his days bareknuckle boxing. The prison warden finds this baffling.
  • No Ending: It ends with Bronson, beaten severely, groaning in a cage just barely big enough for him to stand in. Two police officers close a pair of double doors. Roll credits. It makes sense when you consider that The real Bronson is still in jail.
  • Pedo Hunt: The inmate in the psychiatric prison that Bronson tries to strangle to death, just so happens to be the suggested pedophile.
  • Protagonist Title
  • Spot of Tea: The most cordial Bronson is to a prison gaurd, is when he's serving tea.
  • Unreliable Narrator: In more ways than one. The film is narrated and presented by Bronson, who says he's tired of being misrepresented. This could imply that the media who devote so much attention to him are unreliable narrators, or Bronson could just be trying to extend his reputation.
  • Villain Protagonist
  • Wouldn't Hit a Girl: There are several occasions around women when you might expect some of his trademark extreme violence, but not only does he not get violent, he doesn't even seem to consider it.

The BrokenFilms of 2005 - 2009 Burn After Reading

alternative title(s): Bronson
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