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Stars: Tom Hardy, Amanda Burton, Matt King, James Lance, Hugh Ross

Director: Nicolas Winding Refn

Danish director Refn specialises in extreme, often ultra-violent films, of which only his Pusher series has had any notable success. Why anyone would want to make a film about Britain's most violent criminal isn't clear, but, if it had to be done, Refn's probably your man.

Michael Peterson (Hardy) is a raging psychopath who beats kids up at school, and later their teachers too, before turning to petty crime and tearing into anyone who stands in his way, including the police who arrest him for the first of many times.

During one of several spells in prison - he's still there - Peterson decides to call himself Charles Bronson after the Death Wish star. Subsequent beatings by guards are pretty unrelenting and even when Bronson shows a talent for art he ruins it by exploding again.

To be fair, Refn tries to dress all this up a bit, stylising the action in old Beatles fashion and putting Bronson forward as the star of his own one-man theatre show, sporting a variety of painted faces. Yet the fact remains that this is a savage, brutal film whose sole real asset is the full-blooded (and full-throated) portrayal of the ferocious Bronson by Hardy. Most of the other acting (in a variety of artificial characters) isn't too good.

Still, I must record that the previewgoer on my left laughed hysterically almost throughout: there's just no accounting for taste.

David Quinlan

UK 2008. UK Distributor: Vertigo. Colour.
92 minutes. Not widescreen. UK certificate: 18.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 2, Violence/Horror 3, Drugs 0, Swearing 3.

Review date: 09 Mar 2009