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CHOPPER, 2000
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CHOPPER,     MOVIE POSTERCHOPPER, 2000
Movie Reviews

Directed by Andrew Dominik

Cast: Eric Bana, Simon Lyndon, David Field, Daniel Wyllie, Bill Young, Kate Beahan
Review by Stefan Leverton


SYNOPSIS:

Chopper tells the intense story of Mark "Chopper" Read, a legendary criminal who wrote his autobiography while serving a jail sentence in prison. His book, "From the Inside", upon which the film is based, was a best-seller.

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REVIEW:

Chopper is a really interesting film for a number of reasons, and carries a cult weight, gritty style and plot which bordersí the line of laughter and brutal honesty which illuminates Australian more than any other recent example.

The reasons for its interest are many fold. Itís based on the life and crimes of infamous Australian criminal Mark Brandon Read, whose best-selling memoir was both hilarious and scary at the same time. It was director Andrew Dominikís first foray into feature films after being a successful music video director. And last but not least, it gave the world Eric Bana. Now a major Hollywood actor, he was here first foraging into feature films having been, somewhat surprisingly to some, a stand-up comedian.

The story tells the life of Mark Brandon ĎChopperí Read, a notoriously ruthless criminal who lurked in the Australian underworld amidst pimps, hookers and drug dealers. From the vantage point of prison, Chopper reflects on his life in the underworld, for a news crew doing yet another feature on the media savvy Read. In flashbacks we capture Chopper, again in prison (as he was in and out for most of his life), a paranoid, feisty yet confident and witty character. In a spate of paranoid delusion created a war amongst rival gangs and had to take extreme measures in order to isolate himself from potential assassins, some of whom could be those he least expects, as the film demonstrates.

Having managed to survive this violent episode and the media goldmine that was the resulting court cases Chopper finds himself released from prison, a little fatter in some areas and missing body parts in others. However this doesnít change his outlook on life and lead him down a better path, this isnít that kind of story, Chopper isnít that kind of character.

Old acquaintances come back to haunt him (or so he thinks) as does his jealousy of his prostitute girlfriends admirersí. Parallel to this is constant dialogue and banter with local detectives and a plot by old friends to bring Chopper down. All the while Choppers seemingly misplaced suspicions actually manifest themselves, and his narcissistic behaviour creates a character that is multi-faceted.

This is portrayed excellently on screen by the bets mark of the film, Eric Bana. His ability to switch mood and remain utterly convincing is the mark of a wonderful performer. Being a well liked character himself from his days as a stand-up is no coincidence in how he deals expert with the role of Chopper. The scenes that really stick out are those that leave an uncomfortable feeling, where tension is the underlying tone, the not knowing whether we will see the charismatic or the pugilistic Chopper, a very fine line that Bana walks with great care. Chopper is a character struggling with wanting to be all things to all people, funny to his mates, intimidating to his foes, kind to his girlfriend and obnoxious to authority, but what is uncontrollable in him is what he dislikes about himself most and yet makes him the infamous star that he is, albeit a criminal one.

And this is all married with an interesting style and sheen to the film which seems very David Fincher like, which is no bad thing. Director, Dominik has used his music promo background to inject the visual appeal the film needed, with some abstract images and scenes providing some diversity to what mightíve been an otherwise straight biopic.

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