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For Your Consideration: Tom Hardy in Bronson

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Sep 16, 2011 | 5:46am EDT

ALTWhen the credits roll, the lights come up and you get home from seeing Drive, this weekend’s crime thriller starring Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan, Bryan Cranston, and Albert Brooks, it’s almost guaranteed you’ll be clamoring for a little more of the movie’s slick, stylistic cinematics. Don’t worry—there’s a little film called Bronson that’ll be waiting for you on Netflix Watch Instantly that’s going to be right up your alley. Here’s why you might want to consider adding it to your queue and giving it a watch:

Who Made It: Drive director Nicolas Winding Refn co-wrote and directed Bronson in 2008. This was far from his first film, but it was the first to really get him noticed.

Who’s In It: Tom Hardy (Inception, Warrior). This was the film that put Hardy on the map, and introduced him to critics and audiences as a well-aimed punch is introduced to a face.

ALTWhat’s It About: Bronson is stylized a biopic detailing the life and exploits of Michael Peterson, a man who would go down in history as Britain’s most violent criminal (and later changed his name to Charles Bronson). The film catalogues his school days, his first foray into crime, and the myriad ways the British prison system tried, and failed, to deal with his out-of-control behavior.

Why You Should Watch It:

Bronson deserves to be watched if for no other reason than Tom Hardy’s jaw-dropping performance. Hardy had been in several films prior to Bronson, including playing the villain in Star Trek: Nemesis as well as roles in Layer Cake, Marie Antoinette, and RocknRolla. But his powerhouse turn in Bronson was such a breakout performance—for which no one was prepared—that it still felt like he came out of nowhere.

Hardy plays Bronson as a mad jester, a vaudevillian clown with a knack for telling stories. He is a coiled mass of unrelenting brutality that not only seems plucked from another era—with his bald head and thick, handlebar moustache—but also from a completely different world. His every non-combative interaction with normal people is a series of tweaking sudden movements and blank expressions; a subtle physical character trait that emphasizes his complete disconnect from reality. He’s almost a cartoon character without a conscience…that could bite your ear off and punch you into a bloody pulp.

Despite his over-the-top discomfort with every other living thing and his penchant for bloodletting, Bronson, thanks to Hardy’s performance, is undeniably likable. There is a hopelessness to him, in that he can only connect with other humans when he is pummeling them half to death, that makes him endearing despite himself.

ALTIt’s interesting to watch this film now with the knowledge that Hardy will be playing Bane in The Dark Knight Rises. Bronson is the film that should solidify that casting choice once and for all. The man is built like a cement truck and is endlessly intimidating—the way he can snarl and bark certain lines had me recoiling from the screen. Seeing him take apart an entire room full of prison guards, and the fact that Bronson spends time as an inmate at hospital for the criminally insane, seemed like cross training for the larger-than-life Batman villain.

Nicolas Winding Refn has crafted an amazing playground in which his anti-hero can play. He takes the figurative stage of media attention, on which the real life Bronson thrived, and creates a literal stage within the character’s mind. He engages in several different styles of theater and musical performance to weave the saga of his own life. Refn’s script and his photography allow for one of the most unique cinematic experiences of the last several years and gives him the ability to make this brutal force of misdirected rage a well-rounded, at times unsettlingly sympathetic, human being. I love the way they creatively inserted into the film actual news footage of a riot for which Bronson was the architect.

So if you decide Drive just wasn’t enough to satisfy your Nicolas Winding Refn fix, watch him team up with Tom Hardy, the man who is sure to be next summer’s biggest star, in Bronson.

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