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By Whitney Borup | June 14, 2009

This is a film about Charles Bronson. No, not that “Death Wish” Charles Bronson we all know and love. This movie’s about Charles Bronson: Britain’s most violent criminal. Look up Bronson’s name on Wikipedia and you can find out that the man has spent 34 years in prison, 30 of which were in solitary confinement. Read further, and you will learn that this all started with a botched robbery where Bronson stole about 26 pounds.

The film, “Bronson,” seems remarkably accurate, which is insane because the film is totally nuts. Charlie Bronson, is clearly a disturbed individual with a highly tuned sense of humor. Because not only does he take guards hostage, but he dresses them up like women, tears off all his own clothes, and fights the other guards in scenes that blow that naked Viggo Mortensen fight from “Eastern Promises” out of the water.

The film follows Bronson’s life so far, from birth to his imprisonment in a mental facility (in one of the most hilarious sequences of the film, the loonies throw a dance party) to his latest escapades. All the while, scenes of Bronson giving a one-man-show on a darkened stage in front of an anonymous audience are interspersed with the plot. In these performance pieces, you see Bronson’s artistic and emotional side (the real Charlie Bronson has written many award winning books and poems).

The pace of the film is mind-blowingly quick. One minute Charlie is born, the next he’s pounding some poor man’s face into the dirt, the next he’s working on art projects. But the fast pace works because every once in a while we cut away to learn a bit about his inner workings. These thoughts of his are violent, dark, and disturbing. He delivers his lines straight-faced, but then suddenly flashes an eerie grin that you learn can mean nothing but trouble. It is these strange little moments in the film that give actor Tom Hardy a chance to shine. Because shine he does. While the film is a kind of cross between “A Clockwork Orange” and “Fight Club,” Hardy’s performance is completely original. He makes Bronson irresistible to watch: charming and dangerous. And even when his floppy, nasty penis is bouncing around on screen, you’re watching his extremely expressive facial features.

“Bronson” may not be the most commercially viable film, but it is one that is sure to leave a deep impression. Days later, Hardy’s freaky-a*s smile is still haunting me.

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