Bronson is almost the exception. It had been sitting in my Instant Play Queue for so long that I'd forgotten why I'd put it there; my son referred to it vaguely as a movie about a boxer. Well, there I was alone with the TV, and as so often happens when we two have the room to ourselves, I take a little risk.
Ahem. Calling Bronson "a little risk" is like calling King Kong a big monkey. I had even forgotten it's a Nicolas Winding Refn movie (the mesmerizing Valhalla Rising and the hate-it-or-love-it Drive, not to mention the recent Only God Forgives, which was more hated than loved—except by me); but he was nice enough to get his name up front, so I could steel myself. And for some reason I'd neglected to register even its lead, Tom Hardy, so good in Inception and as Bane in The Dark Knight Rises—and fer Pete's sake, he's the new Mad Max! So the blows started raining down on me pretty quickly.
And boy, they just don't let up. Hardy is phenomenal, as fluid and scary as De Niro in his Travis Bickle/Rupert Pupkin days. I won't say much more; it is once of those performances you really do have to see to believe. And Refn is not just daring but sure-footed, even fleet. Bronson seems at first to have nothing in common with his last few pictures—until you settle into its Clockwork Orange heart, in which music and frantic movement couple in startling ugliness with precise framing and graceful tracking. It's "beautiful" to watch, if the poem's right and beauty is truth, truth beauty. Because this true story is unremittingly ugly (when it isn't being funny in a lethal-slapstick kind of way), its lead less motivated than Jake LaMotta, its path strewn with senseless violence and energy expended on building an abyss.
So no, I can't smile and tell you to enjoy. But I couldn't take my eyes off it (despite my streaming cutting off too many times to tell*), and I want to see it again. Just be warned: pick any random half-dozen assortment of dark and dank adjectives, and you can pin them on Bronson as easily as a tail on a donkey, sans blindfold. So I guess you've been sort of encouraged, and warned.
*And who should we blame? Netflix? Comcast? When oh when will the internet be a public utility?