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Chopper (2000)

DVD Cover (Image Entertainment)
Director:
Andrew Dominik Andrew Dominik
Starring:
Eric Bana Eric Bana
Simon Lyndon Simon Lyndon
David Field David Field
Dan Wyllie Dan Wyllie
Bill Young Bill Young

7.2 / 10 - Overall Rating

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Genres: Biopic (Feature), Black Comedy, Crime, Drama
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Review by Chad
Added: November 25, 2007
Mark Brandon 'Chopper' Read is one of Australia's most famous (and infamous) criminals, and he's also a man who has spent the majority of his adult life in prison for a multitude of crimes. Now, before you get it into your head that this man is just another criminal with mental issues or anger management problems, consider this: he once spent two years in jail for stabbing a pimp in the face with pliers. Why? Well, he found out that this pimp was attempting to force a thirteen-year-old into prostitution, and upon hearing this, he - in broad daylight and in front of the cops - nonchalantly strolled over to said pimp and did some damage to his face before walking over to the cops and turning himself in. Yes, his methods may be vicious and he may not be the type of guy you'd bring home to mother, but he does have a heart and tends to direct his violence towards the scum of the country instead of innocent bystanders.

We begin with a message from the filmmakers, who claim that "this film is a dramatization in which narrative liberties have been taken. It is not a biography." Now, I'm far from an expert on the life of Chopper Read, but based on what I do know about the man, the story told here was pretty damned accurate; in fact, the director himself claims that this message was inserted into the film only because he wasn't sure how Chopper would react to the events in the film. If he liked it, great, but if not, the director could cover his ass with the whole narrative liberties thing.

The film begins with a look at life inside prison, how Chopper (Eric Bana) interacts with his fellow inmates, and of course, this also serves as an introduction to the character and how he operates. We learn what he did to get himself locked up, we learn that he leads a prison gang that is at war with another gang, and we also discover at least one of the possible reasons as to how he got the nickname of Chopper. In order to get himself transferred to another cell block, he had a fellow prisoner chop off both his ears with a razorblade, hence, "Chopper."

We then fast-forward a bit and see how he operates on the outside. We meet his girlfriend Tanya (Kate Beahan), we learn that he's a police informant who may or may not be using this position to his advantage, and we also see what happens when he meets a couple of his former friends who now want nothing more than to read about his death in the daily papers. Throughout all of this, we discover that although he may be a ruthless criminal, Chopper Read is actually a fairly sensitive bloke who is quite different from most of the criminals we've come to know and love.

Therein lies the real strength of the film, as Chopper is neither a sappy drama with a happy ending or a violent crime epic with no redeemable characteristics. Chopper, the character, is a man who typically uses violence to get what he wants, and with that in mind, the film is a great crime thriller. Fans of the genre will enjoy watching the prison sequences and some of the ruthless tactics that the man uses to get what he wants, but at the same time, there's also a real character study taking place here. Chopper is presented as an almost sympathetic character in spots, and there are times when one can't help but feel bad for the guy due to the things that he's going through... even after we watched him dish out the same (or worse) on someone else just minutes before.

I was also pleasantly surprised by leading man Eric Bana as Chopper. There are some bonus features on the disc that shows a conversation with the real Chopper, and here, we see how the man talks as well as the type of body language that he uses. Bana must have studied the man intensely, as he absolutely nails the character... sometimes frighteningly so. He may not have the face of the real Chopper, but other than that, one would be hard pressed to tell the actor and the guy who inspired him apart.

There's a great story here, the performances are spot on, and there's also some excellent cinematography to be found... the usage of colors in some of these scenes almost seemed to be done too well for a movie of this caliber. Check it out, as it's a genuinely entertaining film that should please most audiences. 8/10.
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Crispy #1: Crispy - added 11/25/2007, 07:51 PM
Is that the guy in Robbie's avatar?
bluemeanie #2: bluemeanie - added 11/25/2007, 08:39 PM
Andrew Dominik is obviously a talented director. I loved "The Assassination of Jesse James...", but this film didn't do much for me. 5/10.
grain of sand #3: grain of sand - added 11/28/2007, 07:21 PM
yes crispy, that is the man in my avatar.. I loved this movie :) the extra features of chop hanging out telling stories are great.. and once you watch those, you see that Bana plays the character great..
9/10
Tristan #4: Tristan - added 11/28/2007, 08:17 PM
That's Eric Bana in your picture? Jesus. Doesn't look like him at all.
grain of sand #5: grain of sand - added 11/29/2007, 04:19 PM
no sir, its mark read, the real chopper in my avatar.
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