Chopper

dir-scr Andrew Dominik
with Eric Bana, Simon Lyndon, Vince Colosimo, Bill Young, Kate Beahan, Skye Wansey, David Field, Daniel Wyllie, Peter Hardy, Robert Rabiah, Serge Listro, Renee Brack
00/Australia 4 out of 5 stars


Review by Rich Cline
Based on the controversial books written by self-confessed murderer Mark "Chopper" Read, Chopper is a violent, creepy film that's still compellingly entertaining. It's also filmed and acted with wit and style that put things into some sort of perspective, as Read's swaggering bravado is both magnetic and somewhat sad.

We follow Read (brilliantly played by Bana) from 1978 to 1991 as he goes in and out of prison and carries on violently maiming, killing and intimidating everyone he meets both inside and out. And yet he's such a charismatic character that we almost like him. He's just so relentlessly matter-of-fact, refusing to react to whatever happens around him, never even wincing at any moral implications whatsoever. Even when he's being forcefully stabbed by his closest friend (Lyndon). And Read is surrounded by fascinating characters, each of whom could feature in a film of their own.

Dominik's writing and direction are first-rate--stylishly capturing the black comedy in the characters while never hedging on the violence that consumes them. Yes, it's very, very grisly--often almost too much to bear (showing us what even Tarantino cuts away from). But the film never glorifies the brutality; it's there to make a point. And Dominik also cleverly undercuts Chopper's mythology by casting doubt on Read's accounts of his own exploits--is this all a smokescreen for a much more complicated, troubled man? Often very hard to watch, this is a startling, haunting, funny film that both mesmerises and disgusts. Yet even with Dominik's clever writing, shooting and editing, this is Bana's film from start to finish. In his hands, Chopper is someone we despise, laugh at, admire, fear and care about. A remarkable achievement.

[18--very strong adult themes, graphic violence, language] 28.Sep.00
UK release 24.Nov.00; US release Apr.01

Winner of three Australian Film Institute awards: director, actor Bana and supporting actor Lyndon (also nominated for best film, adapted screenplay, cinematography, score, production design, editing and sound).

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READER REVIEWS

Zane Wickens, UK: "I have just recently watched this truly outstanding film, which for me is as good as they come. Eric Bana is excellent in the role and makes the character all the more believable, and as many have said will bring you round to find yourself beginning to like the insane psychotic man known as Chopper Read. From start to finish there is never really a dull moment in this film, as it drags you along with the brilliant mixture of violence, humor and, rather strangely, sympathy; not for the victims of Read but for Read himself. All in all this is a great film, and should have had a lot more publicity about it. See as soon as you can, just in case someone out there decides that it is too brutal to be shown again." (11.Jun.01)

Michael Robinson, Australia: "This film was based in fact and Read's victims were real. Chopper is a real person. A real psychopath. Yes it's a good movie, but let yourself get sucked in by a dramatisation. He was a brutal and maniacal killer. Fact." (13.Jun.01)

Jeff Greenhalgh, net: "Based upon the books by Mark 'Chopper' Read. At times very violent, often very bloody, but undeniably very compelling viewing. The casting of stand up comedian Eric Bana to play the cold blooded killer Mark Read is undeniably offbeat, but it is a piece of inspired casting as he carries the part seemingly effortlessly - and is (perhaps surprisingly) convincing. Unexpectedly, there's a lot of wit in there, and we also see the more vulnerable, human side of this man. Unmissable adult viewing." (19.Nov.02)

Glenn Ford, net: "The film for me was an anti-climax after reading the first of Chopper's books. The film didn't cover his growing up years or the first gang he had etc. I think that a film portraying what was written from start to finish would have been better. Despite this the film was very well made and the acting excellent, especially the character of Blue which was outstanding!" (12.Feb.04)

Craig Carling, UK: "Once in a while, usually during an attack of insomnia, i get to see a film that takes me completely by surprise. Last night, while casually flicking through the channels, i happened upon a man lying on the floor of what looked like a prison cell with blood, in copious amounts, eminating from a particularly nasty looking neck wound. i thought, 'you don't see that every day' and continued watching, as you do! boy was i not disappointed. the film was Chopper. As a Brit, i had never heard of Mark Brandon Read, or for that matter Eric Bana, but both the story and Bana's performance blew me away. i am a big fan of films of this genre, such as A Sense of Freedom, and this is right up there with the best of them. the acting is superb, the photography really captured the mood and the period, and the script was well thought out and fast paced enough to keep you glued. if this had been made in the USA it would have (rightly) won a shedload of Oscars and Golden Globes, but please, please don't let them sycophantic fools get their hands on it for a remake. it wouldn't be the same with Bruce Willis." (10.May.04)

Steve McCormack, UK: "I like films about the classic anti-hero and Chopper was no exception. Raw, gripping, graphic action coupled with a sense of mystery about the main character makes this film compelling viewing. Bana is a true find -- let's hope he goes on to a career more in films than stand up. Romper Stomper bought Russell Crowe to everyone's attention; this can do the same for Bana. The rawness of the film's presentation adds to the atmosphere. A slicker Hollywood-style treatment would denegrate from one of the film's strengths, namely its ability to make you feel as though you were there recording on a handheld video. Great film." (13.May.04)

she_devil_vamp, Sydney: 5/5 "I met Chopper Read in June 2004. He is a great bloke. I had seen the movie many times, and Eric Bana played Chopper perfectly! It's amazing. Although Chopper never did drugs as they showed he did in the movie, and also alot of other things were not true. It was still a great movie, and i think he should make another one really. He did more good than bad for the society, I know others will disagree. But the movie was great." (20.Jul.04)

Michael Seed, Liverpool: 5/5 "I have just seen this amazing film. i had never heard of this guy but when my mum's boyfriend brought it round for us to watch i was glued. This film is unbelieveable!" (9.Oct.04)

Belly, Australia: 5/5 ""i also have meet chop in melbourne, he is a genuine bloke, very polite and honest. he has done his time for his crimes and just wants to get on with life - and 'NEVER PLEAD GUILTY.'" (25.Feb.05)

Darren T, West Yorkshire, England:: 5/5 "Mark Brandon Read is one of my heros! This is a brilliant film, but it does bend the truth a little in places, as we have to remember, this is a film about a real person, with a real story to tell. The books are better than the film. but it is well worth watching!" (29.May.06)

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2000 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall

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