With the delightfully surreal Bronson Nicolas Winding Refn made took a big step forward in his career. This is the first of his three films dealing with transformation, and it’s easily his most stylistically adventurous film to date, using just about all the tools in cinema to tell this odd biopic that’s any thing but a normal entry in that typically snoozy genre.
Telling the true-ish story of Michael Peterson, who at 19 armed with a shotgun attempted to rob a post office for a nominal sum of money was captured and sentenced to seven years in prison. “Don’t worry son, you’ll be out in four,” his mother tells him. Not bloody likely.
Peterson loves prison and yearns to be famous, taking on the name Charles Bronson and turning his many violent tendencies in to art. Lead actor Tom Hardy (who’s fast becoming a major Hollywood actor; look for him as Bane in the upcoming and highly anticipated The Dark Knight Rises) gives the best performance from the past few years you never heard about as the title character, completely transforming himself in to a muscular brute that loves to fight.
But it’s Refn’s thrilling direction, heavy on style, but appropriate for the material, that puts you in the head of the main character. It’s funny, scary and fascinating spending time there. Think Chopper crossed with A Clockwork Orange and you have a good idea of what’s in store for you.
“Bronson” screens tonight, March 16th at 9 p.m. at the NW Film Center’s Whitsell Auditorium (in the Portland Art Museum) and also this Sunday at 5 p.m. The film is part of the retrospective series, Driven: The Films of Nicolas Winding Refn.