Thought experiment: which character would be least welcome in your home: Ben Kingsley’s in Sexy Beast? David Thewlis’s in Naked? Or Javier Bardem’s in No Country for Old Men? Wot? I’m projecting? You love these guys? Then go ahead; add a new name to your from-hell guest-list: Charles Bronson. Danish director Nicolas Winding Refn’s story is based on the life of a petty thief who managed to turn a minor sentence into a perpetual prison project. In the process (in addition to legally assuming the name of his Hollywood hero) he earned his reputation as “Britain’s most violent inmate.”

Appropriately enough, the film can barely contain Tom Hardy’s performance. It’s a Method turn so bloodily immersive it’s hard to imagine the actor getting his head straight afterwards. Refn’s visual strategy reinforces both physical claustrophobia and mental closure. (During a few transitional moments Hardy appears on an unexplained theater stage, delivering mini-monologue diatribes as the camera increasingly emphasizes his isolation in an inky-black void.)

And then there’s the soundtrack: not since A Clockwork Orange has the aura of brutality been accompanied (and heightened) by such shrewd musical selections, including Verdi’s “Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves,” and equally charged applications of Wagner, Bruckner, and Delibes. But the euphonic kicker—hands down—would have to be the Pet Shop Boys’ “It’s a Sin,” diabolically deployed (and diegetically so) during an insane-asylum soirée. It’s a No Exit dance party