In Australia, Mark Brandon "Chopper" Read
is a celebrity. He's a best-selling author. He does public service announcements
driving. He's been made into an animated cartoon character. He's also
a self-admitted murderer and a convicted criminal. Chopper, a film by
Andrew Dominik, tells at least some of his story -- but has the guts to
admit that it's doing so without much emphasis on telling the whole truth.
Starring: Eric Bana, Simon Lyndon, and David
The film begins with "Chopper" in
prison, watching the television interview that launched him into legend.
The film then tells -- in flashback
fashion -- the story of Chopper's exploits both in an out of prison from
1978 to 1991. We see him kill a fellow inmate who's raised his ire. We
see how he reacts to a contract being put on his head for the murder.
We see him have a buddy cut his ears off so he can be moved to a different
ward in prison. We see him out of prison, acting paranoid and forming
an odd bond with the police.
Chopper Read, as portrayed in the film by Eric Bana, is almost likeable.
That makes his fits of rage and cruel and unusual behavior that much more
horrible. In one scene, after stabbing a man, he offers his victim a cigarette
and sincerely apologizes. The film never makes you hate him, although
his actions make it difficult to like him. That's what's so interesting
about the film and the character. Chopper Read is presented in a fashion
that lets the audience decide if he's a true nut job or just a misunderstood,
self-proclaimed Robin Hood.
Chopper is not a film for everyone. With a career criminal as its subject
and its rather gruesome portrayal of his activities, that shouldn't be
much of a surprise. Also of note is the fact that most of the dialogue
is delivered in a thick Australian accent that makes following some of
the conversations a true challenge. The performance by Eric Bana makes
it worth the effort. This was his first major motion picture role and
it's a stellar example of a newcomer making a big impact the first time
out of the gate.
Well worth searching out, Chopper is a film that you'll spend an evening
watching and much longer thinking about.
Bana spent 2 days living with Mark "Chopper" Read so he
could get a better understanding of how to play his character in the
film. (Source: The
Internet Movie Database)