Thursday, 24 April 2014

Alternate Best Actor 2009: Tom Hardy in Bronson

Tom Hardy did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Michael Peterson also known as Charles Bronson in Bronson.

Bronson is stylish and effective film about the man dubbed to be Britain's most violent prisoner.

This is my first review of a performance by Tom Hardy who is one of the most interesting younger actors around the reason for this can easily be seen through his performance here. Hardy physically transformed himself in the role, as he again did playing Bane later on, he built himself to be a hulking individual. Hardy's muscle bound physique certainly adds to to the whole film, and without a doubt Hardy makes himself look like the real man while also making it so you never once doubt the criminal nature of his character. Hardy hardly leaves the muscles to do the work though in creating Michael Peterson/Charles Bronson and meeting the challenge found in playing in this film. The man is already rather odd individual to begin with from what he did in reality, but this film is not solely interested in the more literal events of the man's life.

A substantial amount of the film is a performance within the performance by Hardy, and even this is broken into two segments of sorts. One where Bronson appears to be performing in front of an audience some strange reenactment of his life, and another where he is directly we as the audience in a form of narration. In his narration Hardy stares straight at you with a fierce intensity quite fitting the brutal nature of the man. Along with that you get the unwavering accent that Hardy uses in the role. It always comes off as completely naturally which is important and it also amplifies Bronson's nature quite brilliantly. The reenactment is quite different though in that you could kind of say that Hardy is playing another role since not only does Bronson act as though he is someone else but also these scenes are suppose to be a performance.

Hardy is incredibly magnetic in these scenes and it is fascinating just to watch him perform as Bronson performing his various acts. Hardy has the right type of fun in these scenes as brings out the joy of performance to be sure but he rather shrewdly does it through the character of Bronson rather than seeming as though it is coming from Hardy himself. Hardy's method is particularly in that he manages to show such a delight in Bronson in basically every part of his life that he describes no matter what it may entail even if what it entails some rather brutal crimes which are usually some rather brutal beatings for all involved. Hardy very simply is amazing to watch though in every moment he has, and honestly Hardy probably could have made a compelling film if all the film was Bronson's very bizarre stage performance.

The rest of the film we follow Michael Peterson in his A Clockwork Orange type of story as we follow him through his most unusual life of crime. His life of crime is particularly odd because throughout the film he only commits a few crimes outside of prison. The scenes outside of prison are brief but Hardy makes the most of them in the way he plays with Bronson's behavior. Hardy has this element he brings in Bronson as he tries to interact in the outside world where there is a constant awkwardness to him. Hardy always brings this fairly odd intensity in it in that it is not why you might expect. There certainly is the more traditional violent intensity in Hardy's performance but there is more to that than that. The intensity Hardy infuses is that of a man who seems unable to really respond like a normal person in that Hardy shows that Bronson never seems right in any scene where he is on the outside.

Bronson barely spends any time outside though and spends most of the time in prison where he technically does not really fit either since he spends most of his time beating guards as brutally as possible in turn being beaten himself and being thrown into solitary confinement. Bronson is a most unusual man and Hardy in turn gives a most unusual performance yet it always seems genuine in the creation of the man. Bronson is not a character who really has much of an arc in that although he has a pattern he does not really change much as man no matter what might be going on. That does not mean the character or Hardy's performance ever becomes uninteresting or repetitive as Hardy turns Bronson into such peculiar but always compelling character no matter what even when it is always rather doubly reinforced how much of a brute that he might be.

Hardy is very charismatic with Bronson and he carries a unquestionable presence in every scene he is in, and purposefully makes Bronson an entity who insists upon himself. Hardy allows it to be believed that anyone would spend more than a moment with Bronson through the strange charisma he does derive through performance. There is some odd slight refinement that Hardy gives the man that seems completely opposed to the man himself especially in light of his various action throughout the film, but Hardy makes it exactly who Bronson is. The funny thing about it is there is no moment in which Hardy ever really lies about the nature of Bronson either, or tries to show Bronson lying in some way. No instead Hardy makes this alluring qualities to the man something that is part of the madness that lies within him.

Bronson is a brutal man though whose greatest past time is beating others or trying his hardest to get into a situation where he will beat others. Hardy presents Bronson as a man who lives for the fight in terms of both a sadistic glee he gets from his success, but also everything surrounding the build up to the fight. Even in the real experiences Hardy still treats Bronson as giving a performance in the fight scenes, fitting for the movie star name he has adopted, in that Bronson likes the build it up proper. Again it is pure insanity as he threatens extreme violence just to take a violent beating himself, while doing odd things like having a guard oil him up like a wrestler, it is all insanity and Hardy is terrific because all of the insanity seems uniquely part of Bronson. He's crazy to be sure and his actions are absurd, but Hardy only ever presents makes them the strange expressions of Bronson.

One great set of scenes for Hardy involve when Bronson is sent to a mental institution instead of a prison. Hardy uses these scenes well to show a slightly different side of Bronson that also suggests more about Bronson as a whole. In these scenes Hardy shows Bronson honestly most as an actual prisoner more than he is in the actual prisons. In these moments his chances for violence and for the fight are severely limited and Hardy for once tones down his magnetism. In the sterile environment Hardy makes Bronson a man completely lost for once and that what he lives for is the fight, and really without his chances for violence Bronson basically loses his spark in life. Hardy rather interestingly perhaps does indeed make Bronson at his most "sane" technically speaking, and in doing so allows us to see why exactly he behaves the way he does in prison.

This is a fantastic performance by Tom Hardy as he simply realizes Bronson as a person and allows us to observe this strange man for the duration of the film. Bronson could have easily been just a repulsive figure and he technically still is even as Hardy plays him, but Hardy makes him such a watchable repulsive man. Hardy realizes Bronson so perfectly that he does indeed just becomes Charles Bronson which is quite an achievement no only because he realizes the larger than life qualities of the man both literally and metaphorically he also realizes the man as vividly man  and in doing so making sense of a man who's actions so often can seem rather senseless. Bronson could have fallen apart if the lead performance was at all inadequate, but Hardy has a unquestionable grasp on the material and carries the film on his back rather magnificently.


Michael Patison said...

I can't wait to see him in Locke.

Mark said...

Welcome back, Louis. I hope you enjoyed your break.

luke higham said...

Welcome back Louis, This is one of my top ten favourite performances in the last 15 years.

luke higham said...

Louis: your ratings & thoughts on Hardy in Inception & Lawless.

Matt Mustin said...

Have you seen Locke? I've heard he's excellent in that.

luke higham said...

I'm really looking forward to seeing Locke as well, but I'm having strong doubts that he'll get a 5 for it, considering that he's being confined to his car for the whole 85 minutes.

Matt Mustin said...

luke: I have literally one word for you: "Drive".

luke higham said...

Matt: Point Taken.
But I'm hoping as much as anyone when I see it, that he does get past the confines of the premise.

luke higham said...

By the way, has anyone seen Noah & what were your thoughts on it.

Matt Mustin said...

luke: I saw it. I kinda liked it, actually.

luke higham said...

Matt: What were your thoughts on Crowe.

Matt Mustin said...

luke: He was very good giving the role appropriate gravitas and emotion. My favourite of the cast was actually Emma Watson, though.

luke higham said...

Louis: lastly, what are your top ten films for 2010, as well as your thoughts on them.

Anonymous said...

Louis , what do you rate Clooney in From Dust Till Dawn?

Michael Patison said...

Random question: What would everybody's 1959 Best Picture choice be?

Michael McCarthy said...

Michael: I'd pick North by Northwest, with The 400 Blows as a close second.

Louis Morgan said...

Luke: 3.5 for both.

Inception -(He does the most he can with a pretty limited part. He's charismatic as usual and brings the right energy with the part)

Lawless -(Why Nick Cave and John Hillcoat why. It's not even a terrible film but it's almost worse because it seem to choose to steer clear of it's more interesting elements for Shia LaBeouf getting beaten up by wacky Guy Pearce. Hardy is one of those interesting elements and it is strange how his character interacts with the main story. Hardy is extremely solid though and he made me wanted much more of his character which we unfortunately never get)

Honestly re-watching either film might improve his score though.

Top Ten 2010:

1. I Saw The Devil - The most frightening descent into a hell I've seen and there is not a single supernatural element in the film.

2. The Social Network - A brilliant telling of a story that really could have just been forgettable or boring in lesser hands. Fincher and Sorkin though make the founding of Facebook absolutely fascinating though.

3. The American - A slow burn to be sure but the type of slow burn I love. Clooney surely at his best and just an effective telling of a relatively simple yet very powerful thriller.

4. The Ghost Writer - Polanski in his comfort zone and he excels in creating an atmospheric thriller filled with the type of paranoia found in the best ones from the seventies. I do have a minor quibble in that I feel the crimes of Brosnan's character frankly should have been darker than they are. The big revelation that the leader of a country has close ties with it's closest ally just does not seem like a secret worth killing over.

5. Animal Kingdom - The dull lead aside it's a brilliant depiction of this peculiar yet always believable family founded by crime with incredibly memorable characters played exceptionally well.

6. Inception

7. True Grit

8. Shutter Island

9. Let the Bullets Fly - Just a really fun movie from start to finish.

10. Toy Story 3 - Although I honestly do think it tries to get too serious at times and I don't think its sentimental moments work as well as most do but I did find it a very enjoyable animated film still.

Matt: I haven't but it's one I'm looking forward to seeing.

Anonymous: That's a film I've seen parts of but I've never watched from start to finish. I should though as I thought Clooney was good from what I have seen.

Michael Patison: Ben-Hur actually.

Michael Patison said...

Interesting choices, especially from you, Louis. I expected a lot of North by Northwest answers. My top 4 are:
1. Anatomy of a Murder
2. North by Northwest
3. The 400 Blows
4. Ben-Hur

luke higham said...

Louis: which decade will you be going back to after this.

Louis Morgan said...

Probably the 60's.

luke higham said...

Louis: When it comes to the bonus rounds, in about 2 years time, instead of using Jacks for Lead & Brennans for Supporting, can you change them to Oliviers for Lead & Rains for Supporting.

luke higham said...

Louis: Lastly, who are your top ten British & Irish actors currently working.

Both in One list.

Michael Patison said...

Luke & Louis: What about O'Tooles and Rains? Then you'd have the two most winless in their category (with Rains just being deserving more (at all) than Kennedy).

luke higham said...

Michael Patison: That's a good idea, although I would like it if Louis went by, say the perfect actor for both categories.

Michael Patison said...

I most certainly can see that side of the argument. It's a good idea regardless who he chooses for lead.

luke higham said...

Louis: who would you say is better?
Fassbender or Hardy

Louis Morgan said...


In regards to the images I suppose I could do something like that.

1. Gary Oldman
2. Daniel Day-Lewis
3. John Hurt
4. Brendan Gleeson
5. Tom Hardy
6. Michael Fassbender
7. Ralph Fiennes
8. Ewan McGregor
9. Cillian Murphy
10. Michael Caine

Based on the more recent output or else Caine would be higher.

I'd say Hardy ever so slightly in that I do believe he holds the highest height with the performance I reviewed above.

luke higham said...

Louis: For 09' lead, I would recommend seeing Caine's Performance in Harry Brown.

Also, will you consider Cillian Murphy's performances in either Sunshine (07') or The Wind That Shakes The Barley (06') for a review.

Lastly, What are your Top Ten Performances in Comic Book Movies.

Louis Morgan said...

Luke: I probably should consider Murphy for both of those since I've shafted him so far.

1. Heath Ledger - The Dark Knight

2. Ed Harris - A History of Violence

3. Viggo Mortensen - A History of Violence

4. Gary Oldman - The Dark Knight

5. Mickey Rourke - Sin City

6. Gene Hackman - Superman

7. Robert Downey Jr. - Iron Man

8. William Hurt - A History of

9. Aaron Eckhart - The Dark Knight

10. Cillian Murphy - Batman Begins

luke higham said...

Louis: When will the next review be up.

Louis Morgan said...