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"My name's Charles Bronson. And all my life, I've wanted to be famous."
Michael Gordon Peterson is a seemingly average man living in England in the 1970s. He describes his upbringing as typical, his parents as principled. After marrying a sweetheart and having a child, he saws off a double-barreled shotgun and robs a post-office. He's caught and arrested soon after, and sentenced to seven years in prison. He soon finds that prison isn't that bad of a place to be. In fact, it's rather like a hotel, where you can eat and sleep for free for as long as society dictates. Soon enough, Michael doesn't just like prison; he loves it. And what's more, he's determined to be a star.
The film is violent, uncompromising, and very, very darkly humorous. It's presented not as the real-life story of Bronson, but as Bronson's story of Bronson. In taking on this viewpoint, the film aims to explore just why Bronson does the things he does, as well as bring attention to the bizarre hypocrisies that his actions expose.
- Adaptation Distillation: The film focuses in on Bronson's more violent episodes.
- Ax Crazy: Bronson is more than willing to punch out, strangle, or take hostage anyone who he feels has wronged him.
- Badass Mustache: Bronson wears a signature handlebar mustache, which is Truth in Television, a probable vestige of his days working as a carnival strongman. Interestingly, Bronson himself says in the introductory audio that it is his moustache on-screen; he claims that he shaved it off and gave it to Hardy on one of his visits to him.
- Cross Dresser: After leaving prison he meets a few that are friends of his agent.
- Dyeing for Your Art: Tom Hardy got huge for this movie.
- Even Evil Has Standards: Whether or not Bronson is evil is up for debate, but he's certainly not okay with a fellow inmate suggesting he partake in raping a young girl with him.
- Fight Clubbing: During his brief odyssey outside of prison, Bronson tries to make a go as a bareknuckle boxer, fighting dogs and local gypsies.
- Fight Magnet: Bronson, full stop; mostly because he wants it though.
- Framing Device: Bronson on a stage, as if preforming a one man show in front of a high society crowd.
- Freudian Excuse: Averted. Bronson was born into a stable, middle-class home.
- Full-Frontal Assault: Twice. Bronson strips naked and greases himself up before fights to make it harder for the guards to grab a hold of him.
- Heel Face Door Slam: The authorities might have actually had a chance at reforming Bronson during his art phase: he genuinely showed artistic talent and he seemed satisfied with pursuing art as a vocation. However, the warden of the prison basically dismissed his art without even looking at it... which led to Bronson just thinking "fuck this", kidnapping his art teacher and submitting him to the Rene Magritte treatment.
- Hellhole Prison: Broadmoor is implied to be such, but never actually shown, except in the real life clips of the large scale riot he orchestrated.
- Instant Sedation: At the psychiatric hospital, this is how they deal with him after he refuses to take his pills.
- Memetic Outfit: Bronson's handlebar mustache and John Lennon round mirrored shades are so synonymous with him, one of the movie posters actually feature it as an abstract representation of him.
- Might as Well Not Be in Prison At All: Less chessmaster than usual for this trope, but he still does just as well inside as he does outside.
- Mood Whiplash: Invoked within the first two minutes. While talking to the audience, Charlie cackles maniacally, and then suddenly delivers a Death Glare.
- Name's the Same: Michael Peterson takes the "fighting name" Charles Bronson during his days bareknuckle boxing. The prison warden finds this baffling.
- No Ending: It ends with Bronson, beaten severely, groaning in a cage just barely big enough for him to stand in. Two police officers close a pair of double doors. Roll credits. It makes sense when you consider that The real Bronson is still in jail.
- Pedo Hunt: The inmate in the psychiatric prison that Bronson tries to strangle to death, just so happens to be the suggested pedophile.
- Spot of Tea: The most cordial Bronson is to a prison gaurd, is when he's serving tea.
- Unreliable Narrator: In more ways than one. The film is narrated and presented by Bronson, who says he's tired of being misrepresented. This could imply that the media who devote so much attention to him are unreliable narrators, or Bronson could just be trying to extend his reputation.
- Villain Protagonist