This film is a dramatization in which narrative liberties have been taken.
It is not a biography.
- Opening card from the movie Chopper
Director: Andrew Dominik
Writer: Andrew Dominik
, Mark Read
3rd August 2000 (Australia
), 24th November 2000 (UK
), 13th April 2001 (USA
Eric Bana - Mark "Chopper" Read
Simon Lyndon - Jimmy Loughnan
Vince Colosimo - Neville Bartos
Daniel Wyllie - Bluey
Kate Beahan - Tanya
David Field - Keithy George
While in an Australian prison, serving time for murder, Mark "Chopper" Read wrote his autobiography, From the Inside. When released, the book flew to the top of the Australian best-seller list. This is the film of that book. While it is unclear how much of the truth is contained in From the Inside, the movie strays far enough away from the book that the statement made in the opening card is certainly warranted.
The movie charts the period from 1978 to 1991. In 1978, we start with Chopper in prison, we follow on to his release in 1986 and his inability to adjust to society. The murder of Sammy the Turk in the parking lot of the Bojangles nightclub lands Chopper back in prison and the movie ends with Read back in prison in 1991, a semi-celebrity after the release of his book.
It is clear that Mark Read has had a blood-soaked past and the film-makers had to make a decision about how to incorporate this into their movie. From pretty much the first scene, it is clear that they chose not to pull any punches - Read stabs fellow inmate Keithy George in the face over and over again, and while we are only shown this from behind Keithy's head, blood flies everywhere and we are shown Keithy sitting in a pool of his own blood with large open wounds in his face.
After this, a price is put on Read's head and we are shown the attempted 'hit' (perpetrated by the only two inmates who Read thought of as friends). Jimmy Loughnan stabs Read in the stomach multiple times and, as his shirt is removed, we are treated to a shot of a stomach with countless knife wounds, all with blood pouring from them.
Later, in possibly the most infamous scene in the movie, Read has his ears cut off by a fellow inmate. This is by Read's request and is so he will be transferred to the hospital wing. Now, I'm sure you've seen Reservoir Dogs, but you haven't seen an ear-chopping scene till you've seen Chopper. As Read himself states on his commentary:
"This is where Quentin Tarantino fucks up in his Reservoir Dogs film,
because when you cut someone's ears off, they don't stop bleeding.
I cut off my ears before anyone ever heard of Quentin Tarantino.
He should have contacted me for technical advice."
Chopper is very very entertaining and watchable, and I would say it is currently one of my favourite films. Andrew Dominik (directing his first feature film) controls the action very well and neither glorifies nor demonizes Read. Having said that, there is very little in the way of plot (the film is more a character study than anything else) and there seems to be no real end. It is unclear how much of the film is exaggeration and how much is fact. When it comes down to it though, this is the best Australian film I have ever seen (and yes, that includes Muriel's Wedding).
The overall fate of this film completely rests on the shoulders of the actor playing Read - all the other characters are peripheral at best. Eric Bana gives one of the best performances of recent years in his portrayal of Read - he was in makeup for hours every day being covered in tattoos, spent time living with the man himself and gained a large amount of weight for later parts of the film. He has an astonishingly powerful screen presence and is uncannily similar to Read himself (compared with the man himself in the DVD extras, anyway).
The extras on the (region 2) DVD are:
- Two full-length commentaries: a fairly interesting but bland one by director Andrew Dominik and a frank and brilliant one by Mark Read.
- Deleted Scenes, including a conversation between Read and Keithy George about a billiard ball and Keithy George's wife and an alternative take on the Loughnan-Read stabbing scene.
- A weekend with Chopper - a series of monologues by Mark Read on a variety of subjects related to the movie.
the breathtaking imdb.com