(WARNING! Totally not safe for work! Trust me on this one guys. Unless your job is totally cool with Tom Hardy and his penis. And honestly, who wouldn’t be?)
Here is a helpful tip when it comes to prison life: Don’t ever be like Michael Gordon Peterson aka “Charles Bronson”. Cause your life is going to wind up being nothing but prison riots. Also, don’t ever befriend someone like Bronson because he is way too mentally unstable to be trusted. If that wasn’t the point for Nicolas Winding Refn’s Bronson then it should have been. Not only is this one of the more disturbing, black comedies I’ve seen in a while but it also has one of my favorite performances. Everyone now knows of Tom Hardy from his role as Bane from The Dark Knight Rises. But this was essentially his breakout performance because of his intensity on screen. One scene I just love though showcases not only his intensity but also the best kind of dry humor.
First off, I love how this entire sequence is shot. Refn does a great job showcasing this confined cell both Bronson and ‘Andy Love’ the guard has to be in. It helps set the mood at first where you don’t know how Bronson is going to treat this guy. But then it becomes a second kind of prison for both because they have to awkwardly sit so close together while they wait for how the warden is going to handle the situation. Before I go in-depth with Hardy’s performance I should give some praise to the second actor involved. Mark Powley does a fantastic job being scared and totally confused at the same time. He has no idea what is going to happen to him and just seeing his eyes dart back and forth to Hardy really sells the fear in him.
Okay, let’s get to the elephant in the room and that is Hardy (and also his penis). Immediately his first words out of his mouth are ‘Shut your fucking mouth!’ and we know he means business. Or does he? It becomes quite apparent, very quickly too mind you, that Bronson had no plans outside of taking this guy hostage. He talks the talk, boy does he ever do that, but he never does anything to threaten ‘Andy Love’. It is all for show which I guess is the theme for this film entirely in that Bronson wants to be considered a performer and this is how he gets off. But again, the intensity in this man’s voice as he speaks is just unnerving. Maybe he isn’t going to do anything to this guy but you never really know even after several viewings.
Ultimately though this is the perfect venue for dry humor. This scene is five and a half minutes long and most of it is through awkward pauses. Most of those pauses are interrupted by Hardy’s loud shouting but there is a lot of waiting around. Bronson’s conversation with the warden is also pretty hilarious because the warden instantly knows Bronson won’t do anything which leads us the finale. Yes, you get to see ALL of Hardy and not only is it uncomfortable it is also hilarious. Hardy constantly screaming at Love to rub butter on him is just bizarre. You don’t see this coming at all and considering it also ends with a brawl you know this film is up for anything to happen.
This definitely will not be the last time I discuss Bronson. There is too much weirdness involved and Tom Hardy’s performance needs to be covered with other scenes. In general though this is one of my all time favorite scenes because how hilariously dry this entire sequence is. Maybe a film about a deranged lunatic in prison doesn’t sound funny….But it really is.