Tuesday, 24 January 2012


Smell the Movies
Smell the TV


Country of origin:UK
Director:Nicolas Winding Refn
Genre:Real life prison drama.
Starring:Tom Hardy
IMDB link:http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1172570/
Tagline:The Man. The Myth. The Celebrity.
Favourite line:"How would you feel, waking up in the morning without a window? My window is a steel grid, I 'ave to put my lips against that steel grid and suck in air, that's my morning... 'cause I got no air in my cell. I have to eat, sleep and crap in that room twenty-three hours of a twenty-four hour day. You tell me, what human being deserves that? Apart from the stinking paedophile or a child killer. I don't deserve that, I done nothing on this planet to deserve that. My bed is four inches off the floor, it's a concrete bed, my toilet hasn't even got a seat on it or a lid, and I 'ave to live like this month after month after month, and the way it's looking it's year after year after year. Now is that's right then so be, but let somebody else 'ave a fucking go at it, 'cause I've had twenty-six years of this bollocks and it's time to come out, and I want the jury at my trail to come and see how I'm living. But I'm not living, I'm existing."

A UK movie based on a true story?
Not usually the kind of thing that floats my boat, but encouraging reviews and a lead actor of interest made me dip my toe.
I'm glad I did.

The plot:
Michael Peterson was a troubled lad. Never really getting on at school, he seemed to have no grasp of right or wrong. Where others would blanch at the idea of punching out their teacher, Michael barely batted an eyelid.
After leaving school, Michael lands a job peeling spuds at the local chippy, when the serving wench catches his eye. Having no money, he decides to rob the local post office to get the money to take her out, and swiftly finds himself incarcerated.
So begins a career in prison that, for the most part, would be spent in solitary confinement. Changing his name to Charlie Bronson, in honour of the Death Wish star, Peterson is comfortable with life on the inside, enjoying the physical confrontations with fellow inmates and prison warders so that, with the help of the alter ego, it's not too long before his record breaking time inside becomes all that can possibly define him.

And this is thought provoking stuff.
Director Rifn chooses an unusual mode to deliver his message, as Bronson is on a stage, addressing an enraptured audience, who cheer and gasp at appropriate places. It's a fantastical approach, and one that very nearly serves to sever the umbilical between engaged viewer brain and on screen action, but he just about gets away with it due to Tom Hardy's mesmerising performance as Bronson.
Last seen in Warrior, as the enigmatic Tommy, Hardy is fast becoming quite the favourite down here at Smell the Cult HQ, and here his is an all engaging presence. Muscular, powerful, charismatic and, on occasion, utterly unreadable, this is a character study with real depth. At least twice, his performance is so convincing it freezes the blood: "What the fuck do you know about what I need?"
Demanding answers to questions that can never be given, this is a movie that makes the viewer question the very concept of the penal system: what purpose does imprisonment serve for one who enjoys being imprisoned? With his journey through the correctional system charted in ludicrous detail, from normal prison, to an insane asylum, back to the real world before the whole cycle begins again, taking in a period on the roof of a prison, mid-riot, captured for a nation's entertainment by circling helicopters, all sides of his existence are explored.
Talking of cyclical, there are patterns here, too. As the real life Peterson was informed by Charles Manson, so too director Oliver Stone was informed by Charlie Bronson when crafting his Mickey and Mallory tale in Natural Born Killers as, here too, all Bronson is really interested in is infamy. And, if you don't believe me, just check out Woody Harrelson's choice of sunglasses.....
Gripping, intelligent, with a truly epic performance at its heart, this is rock solid stuff, only docked a point due to the strange 'on stage' choice of the director.

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