Bronson is a superb biopic of infamous British criminal Michael Peterson, who is considered the most violent criminal in Britain based on how much chaos he has caused since he has been locked up. He makes it a habit to fight with guards and has spent his whole life bouncing from prison to prison (mostly in solitary confinement) as they try to find a place that can finally tame him. At one point in Peterson's life, he is released from jail and spends about 2 months free as a bare knuckle fighter. It is during this time that his promoter gives him the new moniker, "Charlie Bronson" after the Death Wish actor. The role of Bronson is played by Tom Hardy, who audiences will remember as the suave Eames from Inception. Seen here in a much more "unrestricted" role, Tom Hardy really shines and helps make Bronson one of the most energetic and unique biopics I have ever seen.
Raised in a normal family setting, Bronson always had a problem with authority. He would constantly get into fights and was never really given the chance at a normal life. He slowly graduated to more disturbing crimes (though never murder) and was finally placed in jail. The film never tries to really iconisize Bronson but you do feel sympathetic towards him as you see that he clearly had some emotional issues to deal with his whole life. Hardy does such an amazing job showing how unhinged Bronson really was, perfecting that certain spark of anger all psychopaths tend to have in their eyes. It's impressive to see how effortless his performance seemed as he disappeared until the role.
The reason Bronson is such an entertaining film to watch is the way it adds to the normally stale biopic genre. The film is mostly told in straight linear fashion, but is interjected with scenes of Bronson addressing the screen as if he were telling his life's tale to an audience. It's a fitting twist for a man who spent most of his life by himself in a small prison cell. To me, I saw it as a man's attempt at staying sane, simply pretending his life is a show so he can address some invisible crowd. Bronson even appears in clown make up occasionally on stage, simply adding to the illusion that his whole life has been one big circus. My only complaint is that these scenes seemed to occur more in the first half of the movie and unfortunately were used less and less as the movie went on.
For a movie about such a violent man, the movie is luckily infused with a fantastic dark wit. This could have been a drab movie focusing on the hate inside this man but due to Hardy's charismatic performance, excellent fight cinematography, and a sharp script, the movie pops off the screen with such ease. It's not that the movie makes light of what Bronson has done, but because the film is framed as being told by Bronson himself, it is expected that his actions would be seen in an almost heroically comic light. I highly recommend this movie as I feel it never really got the attention it deserved. If nothing else, it will allow you to see the greatest "dance party" sequence I have ever seen in a movie.