Friday, November 20, 2009


"Bronson" is a film that's in limited release, and having sat through it, resisting the strong, strong urge to walk out of the theater, that's the level of exposure it should get, if not less. I like enduring the unendurable sometimes, but this movie takes that too far. There are more than a few scenes that persist for what seems ages, and to no avail. I applaud all those who find this film "pointless." That is exactly, exactly, exactly, exactly what "Bronson" is. If you noticed, I left two or three more "exactly"s than necessary, and that's what is done throughout the film in many different ways with many different things. Nicolas Winding Refn (whose "Valhalla Rising" looks like a good follow-up to this) seems to provide little to no supervision over any technical aspect of the film, so cuts are free to let to run on as long as Matthew Newman as editor wishes. That's at least how it felt.

It's an excruciating film, and simply because it doesn't know where to stop before it becomes tiring. Add to that the fact that we have to watch Tom Hardy do a painfully annoying (but perhaps from some angle good) performance all the way through in scene after scene. This is not the best movie to have the lead actor present some sort of tedious (as said before) "schtick in front of an audience." He's front and center, doing some sort of twisted routine, and that is supposed to be appreciated. Maybe this is, as others have said, "the best way to showcase Charles Bronson" (although I've heard complaints about different aspects of how he's portrayed probably by people who've studied him enough to know). If so, great. It's just maddeningly unpleasant. That's something I can take, but if I come out of the film feeling like I got nothing or close to nothing out of it, it's not worth it.

I should describe this movie first. It's the story of Charles Bronson (Hardy) who has an underlying desire "to be famous." He does it unconventionally (in a sense). After he commits a small crime, he's jailed and basically he's a total problem. He goes from prison to prison to mental hospital to prison in an everlasting circle beating on whoever is trying to hold him down. Maybe I was expecting it would be Steve McQueen's "Hunger" all over again. That film featured long shots, but they were engaging because of the beauty of Sean Bobbit's cinematography. See that instead. Go get the Criterion release when it comes out. It's a great film, Steve McQueen's one and only film, hopefully not forever. "Bronson" hammers you, but with lack of intellect or purpose and abundance of disgust. Oh, yes. There's that one scene with a infuriatingly long take where there's low-grade muzak playing in the background as you follow a mental patient, who walks back and forth before the camera finally rests on Bronson. I don't think it would be very nice if I described what he looks like. It's sickening. There's another scene that was mentioned in the content advisory by the SF Chronicle's negative review as "a scene of defecation." It's as awful as it sounds. (And yes, "Hunger" has "a scene of defecation," too, but in that film it is extraordinary art, however hard that is to picture, whereas here it's used to illustrate the boredom of Bronson and mental hospitals. In "The Hurt Locker," there's a very similar scene when Jeremy Renner returns from Iraq and is shopping. A lot less revolting, and in a much better movie.)

Technically, although containing decent cinematography, "Bronson" features many distractions, too, the greatest of which probably being the overused classical music. In one or two scenes, if any, maybe. But not as often as here. There's a scene in an asylum where there is dancing, and that may be the film's most enjoyable stretch. Plus, the walking of Hardy is tolerable and nice. But that leads right in to the next elongated, elongated moment. Suggested ways of using the amount of time spent watching: read Anthony Burgess' stimulating "A Clockwork Orange," which is considered a major influence on this movie, go see a great movie around in your area, or do something else. You don't need "Bronson." I'm not saying this film would be unenjoyable to all audiences. If it sounds like the best movie of the year, take a shot. You'll likely find it, judging by the comments on IMDB, a waste of time or absolutely amazing. I believe I've made myself clear which side I've found myself on. D

The language in this film was particularly offensive. The "c-word" was used far too many times. I am not usually squeamish about swearing, but here for some reason it kept on getting to me. So just know what you're in for, since the MPAA gives only a citation for "language," while it should be "pervasive strong language."

1 comment:

Literary Dreamer said...

Perhaps people should watch the movie version of A Clockwork Orange, too. As for Bronson, it sounds like you either love the central performance, and the movie, or you hate it, and the movie.