Chopper (2000)
Rated R

Starring: Eric Bana, Simon Lyndon, and David Field

out of

In Australia, Mark Brandon "Chopper" Read is a celebrity. He's a best-selling author. He does public service announcements against drunk 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.

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.

Trivia: Eric 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)

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