Hidden Netflix Gems: ‘Bronson’

It’s Saturday night and you need something to watch. Never fear, Hidden Netflix Gems is a new weekly feature designed to help you decide just what it should be, and all without having to scroll through endless pages of crap or even leave the house. Each choice will be available for streaming on Netflix Instant, and the link below will take you to its page on the site. Look for a new suggestion here every Saturday. 

This week’s Hidden Netflix Gem: “Bronson” (2008)

“My name’s Charles Bronson, and all my life I’ve wanted to be famous.” That’s the opening line of Nicholas Winding Refn’s fictionalized biopic “Bronson,” starring Tom Hardy as the titular character, a man who the press often refers to as the “most violent prisoner in Britain.” You may be familiar with Winding Refn’s best known work, 2011′s “Drive,” starring Ryan Gosling, and recognize Hardy as the guy who played identity thief Eames in “Inception” and most recently appeared as Bane in “The Dark Knight Rises.” While those two pictures might be better films, I don’t think Hardy as ever put in a better performance than he did in “Bronson.”

Charles Bronson is not as well known stateside as he is across the pond. In the UK, the man is something of a national celebrity, both famous and infamous for spending the majority of his adult life in solitary confinement (28 of his 34 years in prison). Bronson was first incarcerated in 1974, at age 22, after being handed a seven-year sentence for armed robbery (of just  £26.18) from a suburban English post office. That seven years quickly became 14 as a result of his starting various fights and hostage situations involving guards and fellow prisoners. Bronson was released in 1988, but spent just 69 days on the outside (during which he began a “career” as a bare-knuckle boxer) before being arrested again. He’s been in prison ever since and his antics haven’t ceased.

Part of Hardy’s preparation for the role came from phone conversations with the man himself. In interviews discussing these interactions, you can see what makes the performance so special. In this clip, Hardy re-enacts a conversation he had with Bronson regarding a recent break-up. It’s one man sitting on a couch, but Hardy’s impression is so good it’s almost as if the camera is cutting back and forth between the actor and his subject (see the full interview here).

The film, which has been certified fresh and sits at 77 percent on the Tomatometer, is a clear homage to “A Clockwork Orange” (for reasons beyond the plethora of ultraviolence). “Bronson” begins with and includes many scenes of Hardy speaking into the camera and addressing the audience directly. The move allows the film to break the fourth wall, but also includes its own in-universe explanation: Bronson is performing a one-man play, narrating his life to a theater audience (sometimes while dressed in clown make-up). Alternatively (and more likely), he’s just imagining that’s the case, because in his mind, Charles Bronson is the most famous, best-loved man in the universe. The film is a biopic, but it’s highly fictionalized. It’s less about telling Bronson’s life story as it happened and more a character study. When the film’s events break from reality, it can be explained away by the fact that we’re getting Bronson’s version of the story. There’s no mendacious play at objectivity. Rather, we’re allowed to understand and perceive Bronson’s reality, for however brief a time, and thus try to figure out if Charles Bronson is really a crazy person or just far more sane than the rest of us. Either way, the answer might surprise you, and then being surprised might surprise you.

As mentioned, the thing that really separates this film from the pack is Hardy’s performance. He perfectly captures the comedic delirium that is being Charles Bronson. Frankly, I’m glad I saw “The Dark Knight Rises” first, because Tom Hardy and Charles Bronson were one and the same in my mind for a few days after watching this movie. I’m not sure how seriously I could have taken Bane after seeing Bronson/Hardy strip down and command a kidnapped guard to rub him down with grease, all the while yelling “Put on my armor! Everywhere, get it everywhere! Put some on my ass. Not in my ass ya faggot!” as the guard whimpers. To me and you it sounds like insanity, and it is, but for the 92 minutes “Bronson” is running, it’s his world, and we’re all just living in it.

 Check out the trailer below and follow the writer on Twitter @NateKreichman.

  

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A chat with Seann William Scott, Jay Baruchel and director Michael Dowse of “Goon”

Aptly enough for a sports comedy, our interviewees today are a ragtag collection of lovable underdogs. Unavoidably geeky, Jay Baruchel’s starring roles in “She’s Out of My League,” “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice,” and “How to Train Your Dragon” have left him short of the A-list; he’s still perhaps best known as the lead alum of Judd Apatow’s beloved, quickly cancelled 2001 sitcom, “Undeclared.” Leading man Seann William Scott has worked in numerous films in a pretty wide variety of genres, yet to almost everyone he’s still obnoxious Steve Stifler of the “American Pie” series; he’ll be reprising the character for a fourth go-round in the upcoming “American Reunion.” Director Michael Dowse has some indie successes on his CV, but his last attempt to break into the mainstream, “Take Me Home Tonight,” was an unmitigated commercial disaster and, for the most part, a critical flop. (We, however, liked it a lot; so much for the Bullz-Eye bump.)

Already available on VOD, “Goon” is one underdog movie we’re definitely rooting for. Loosely inspired by minor league hockey star Doug Smith’s memoir and co-written by Canadian hockey fan Baruchel and veteran Apatow-scribe Evan Goldberg, the film focuses on Doug Glatt (Scott), a goodhearted bouncer of no great intellect who finds himself promoted to full-time hockey thug.

Featuring an outstanding supporting cast comprised of Baruchel, Liev Schreiber, Eugene Levy, Kim Coates (“Sons of Anarchy“) and Alison Pill as the dysfunctional love of Doug Glatt’s life, “Goon” doesn’t gloss over the ugliness of sports violence even as it humorously celebrates it. For that, it took some punches from the traditionally violence-averse British press on its earlier UK release. The Yankee press, however, has been kinder, and there may be some hope of a wide release if enough of you hit the initial U.S. screenings starting this Friday.

Low-key Minnesota native Seann William Scott, intense Montrealite Jay Baruchel, and matter-of-fact Canadian filmmaker Michael Dowse were still high on the afterglow of a successful industry screening the night before when a bunch of us journos met with the trio at the Beverly Hilton. Some amusing and informative highlights are below.

Jay Baruchel on creating Doug Glatt, the not-so-bright but incredibly decent hero of “Goon.”

My dad used to have this expression, which was “Don’t complicate a ham sandwich.” In my experience, a lot of the hardest guys I know are also the kindest and most mild-mannered and gentlest. This in no way means that [their kindness] should be mistaken for weakness. He’s a man who knows what he wants, or finds out what he wants and where he’s supposed to be. He’s fulfilled.

Seann William Scott on playing Doug Glatt.

He’s written to be such a lovable guy and so good to his core. It was written with that specificity and I consider myself to be a good guy, so it’s not hard for me to play that… I was always aware of wanting to make sure there were different colors. Anything that I could bring, but it was already written with that kind of code of honor that he has. He’s self aware of the kind of guy he is and where he is in the world, but it is kind of black and white.

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A Roundtable Chat with Colin Firth (“Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy”)

When Focus Features drops you a line and asks you if you’d like to head to New York City for an overnight stay at the Waldorf Astoria in order to attend a screening and press junket for “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy,” based on the novel by John le Carré, you don’t think about it. You just say, “Yes.” And so I did. After catching a screening of the film on a Friday night, I got up on Saturday morning to begin the interviews of the day. After a roundtable with director Tomas Alfredson and screenwriter Peter Straughan, the two gentlemen left the room, to be replaced a few minutes later by one of the stars of the film, Colin Firth.

One word of warning: the potential for spoilers exists within the piece…like, to the point where Firth asks during one of his answers “not to turn this into spoilers when you write about it.” But, look, if you don’t want to know, then don’t read it. But given that the original novel was published in 1974, followed by the TV miniseries in 1979, it’s not as if you haven’t had plenty of time to absorb this information already…

Journalist: Are you a fan of the espionage and spy films?

Colin Firth: I like the good ones, yeah.

J: Do you have any favorites?

CF: No, not really. [Gesturing toward the journalist sitting next to him.] We talked about this, actually, him and I. He had to help me out. [Laughs.] No, I’m one of those people where, if you say, “Tell me what your favorite music is,” I can’t think of any music in the world. So that’s a difficult question. You throw something at me, I’ll tell you whether I like it or not. But, yeah, I’m a fan.

J: Well, we’re all like that. You ask me, and I’d do the same thing.

CF: Yeah, I know. Nothing is more guaranteed to draw a blank, I’m afraid.

J: In the film, we were trying to figure out exactly who the people up in that big office were.

CF: [Uncertainly] Oh, I hope I can help…

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A “Warrior” for a good cause

The upcoming action drama “Warrior” is the first truly major movie we can think of to cover the world of MMA. A poster from Comic-Con signed by stars Tom Hardy — who made such a huge splash as Eames in “Inception” and who is slated to be next Mad Max — and Joel Edgerton (outstanding in last year’s “Animal Kingdom“) from Comi-Con is currently up for auction at eBay. It’s all for an outstanding cause, the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation, so you’ll be getting a small piece of history while helping children. However, the auction closes this afternoon (Thursday, 8/4), just a couple of hours, so there’s not much time.

warrior

  

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