Here's a quick review of this 2008 British film about the notorious "Britains most violent criminal" Michael Gordon Peterson aka Charlie Bronson. It's a really well-made, stylish and well acted movie, that's a strangely compelling but ultimately fruitless watch. I felt it was perhaps over-stylised, possibly due to the lack of content the story of this "notorious" character actually provides.
At the end of the day, the message of the film is that Bronson is a typical violent thug, with little self-awareness or even any really interesting things to say, who became 'infamous' because he was more violent and idiosyncratic than other prisoners. He was randomly renamed Charlie Bronson by his fight promoter, during the brief 69 days he spent out of prison, and much of what he did was just that, random. Unlike the stories of many infamous criminals that have been made into films, such as the incredible French epic Mesrine, Bronson accomplishes virtually nothing in his life, except spending decades in solitary confinement. Whilst this makes him a great character study for an actor, it leaves little to actually show us.
Still, there are some all too brief glimpses of some great cameo characters, some cool music and a brilliant performance from Tom Hardy. I felt aware that the actual pivotal moments of the story, such as the 69 days Bronson spends out of jail, were the most interesting but also the most fictionalised. Bronson has no real goals or motivations in life, other than some brief dalliances with women, doing crap artwork and vaguely wanting to be famous, so who has a clue how and why he interacted with those around him.
Unless you're interested in seeing the inside of a prison cell or a psychiatric ward with electro music playing, there's little insight offered by this film, other than a bit of black-comedy and a lot of naked (at times very homoerotic) fight scenes. Watch it for some great acting, but not for curiosity or intrigue; solitary confinement is as dull as it sounds.