DVD Rating: ****

Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

Read Tony Sullivan's film review of Bronson

"He's either a genius or one of the most mental human beings I've ever met in my life. By the end I've realised he's both of these things." This comment, in the Making Of featurette which accompanies the film is not, as you might expect, a reflection on Charles Bronson - but on the director, Nicolas Winding Refn. It is just one of the many surprising things contained within the extras which accompany Bronson which, itself, is full of the unexpected.

The Making Of may not have the polish of Hollywood 'love-ins' but what it lacks in looks it makes up for in personality. It's here that we learn Refn never says "action" preferring the call to arms: "Let's fuck!" and find out his artistic intent as regards the message of the film. "It's a metaphor for somebody becoming an artist and wanting to be famous," he says.

Copy picture

Input in the Making Of also comes from an almost unrecognisable Tom Hardy - who runs his hand through his hair so often you wonder how he coped with being bald to play Bronson - and from Bronson's long-time real-life friend, Mark Fish, who helped ensure he wasn't "stitched up" by the filmmakers.

A second featurette - Tom Hardy: Building A Body - is even lower in terms of its production values, but still quite entertaining. It shows Hardy working out with trainer Patrick 'pnut' Monroe as they talk about how he bulked up for the role in just five weeks. It's all about "working smart" apparently... but I personally wouldn't try any of this at home.

More information about the director's intentions for the film can be found on the commentary track, which takes the form of an interview with film critic Alan Jones. Although Jones' presence provides a structure for the commentary - and ensures that certain key aspects of the film are covered - it does mean that Refn becomes more confined to talking about 'concepts' behind the film rather than the actual mechanics of making it. This is not necessarily a bad thing, however, and the commentary is certainly well worth a listen and covers diverse topics such as Refn's love of Amanda Burton, the influence of Kenneth Anger on the film ("steal from the best," says Refn) and how Bronson, the film, came to influence Refn's next project, Valhalla Rising.

Perhaps the most fascinating of the extras, however, is a 16-minute audio introduction to the film by Charles Bronson himself. In it he reveals his doubts that Tom Hardy would ever be able to play the "strongest, fittest 56-year-old on the planet" and his amazement by Hardy's swift transformation. He has nothing but praise for the film - which he has not and may never see - providing his mother likes it (she does, apparently). What is surprising is the philosophical nature of what Bronson says. He freely admits that he was a "really nasty bastard" but goes on to say that he has served his time and is, in many ways, "a hostage of my own past". The introduction is read over gallery pictures from the film - many of which indicate that there must be quite a lot of deleted scenes out there.

Although the extras - rounded out by TV spots and a teaser trailer - have been shot on a budget, taken together this is a fine package which genuinely adds another layer of understanding to the film. The filmmakers should also be praised for retaining an independent standpoint. Although there is a vociferous campaign to free Bronson, it is not on the agenda of this film or anywhere on the DVD extras.

The only downside of the package is that there are no subtitles, not even on the main feature, which is a real pity.

Reviewed on: 07 Jul 2009
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Bronson packshot
Examination of the life of Britain's self-titled "most dangerous criminal". Out on re-release.
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Product Code: VER51219

Region: 0

Ratio: 16:9 anamorphic widescreen

Sound: Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0

Extras: Audio commentary with Alan Jones and Nicolas Winding Refn, Making Of, Charles Bronson Audio Introduction, Tom Hardy: Building The Body, TV Spots, Teaser, Valhalla Rising trailer

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