Here's a tip for would-be felons: Prison sucks. I mean, it really sucks. But I guess that's kinda the point.

Here's a tip for would-be felons: Prison sucks. I mean, it really sucks. But I guess that's kinda the point.

If you had any doubt, Charlie Bronson (Tom Hardy), the title character from Nicolas Winding Refn's trippy biopic, will scare you straight in a hurry. Based on the true story of Britain's most famous convict, Bronson is an impressionistic portrait of a man whose sole purpose in life is to make prison as violent as possible.

Bronson is the "fighting name" for Michael Peterson. In 1974 he was sentenced to seven years for sticking up a post office, but he's been behind bars for more than 30 years since - mostly in solitary confinement - due to a nasty habit of fighting guards and taking hostages.

Much of the film unfolds like a surreal fever dream; Bronson narrates from a vaudeville stage while his celebrity fantasies bleed into prison notoriety.

Hardy commands the screen as Bronson, his taut muscles taking up the few inches of celluloid that aren't occupied by the felon's ego. Unfortunately, though, there's not much to the flick beyond Hardy's character study. The plot is largely confined to small jail cells, where little happens outside of Bronson's rather unimpressive imagination.

True stories can be tough for filmmakers - life rarely provides a tidy third act. In this case, Bronson's life is going nowhere, and Bronson succumbs to the same problem.