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 The World of Film in Australia - on the Internet Updated Tuesday, September 30, 2014 - Edition No 917 

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CHOPPER

SYNOPSIS:
Mark (eventually nicknamed Chopper) Read (Eric Bana) dreams of making a name for himself as a legendary crime figure. His journey is brutal and bizarre, as he tries in vain to capture that elusive Al Capone quality, having to settle, instead, for a Fawlty Towers version of a standover man. This does not preclude him being violent and sadistic, but it does prevent him reaching the dark heights he seeks to attain. In and out of jail, Chopper is always on edge, and sometimes he can even see the joke himself. But the fact that he is a better selling autobiographical author than crim (and proud of it) is testament to his absurdity.

"A story from life that jumps up to be told, a well honed script and a natural filmmaking talent combine to make Chopper one of the standouts of Australian filmmaking in early 2000. (But note the advance disclaimer: this is not a factual biopic.) Writer/director Andrew Dominik fuses cinematic style with strong story telling skills to create a vibrant snapshot of a criminal and manages to do his subject and society justice: we can never sympathise with Chopper, nor condone his actions, yet we can relate to him as a human being. This is a major achievement. The film snaps with energy and pace, the style of shot angles and colour filters creates an edgy mood and the casting is inspired. Dominik is at once specific yet metaphoric in his approach to creating atmosphere and social ambience, so that we are drawn in but also prompted to observe. There are no characters that engage us by association (I speak for my boring self, of course) or generate sympathy by their generous natures: we are instead engaged by the veracity and dynamic of his central character, Mark Chopper Read, one of Australia's most inane, colourful, brutal and enigmatic crims. And Eric Bana is magnificent; he is a genuine revelation, as explosive and disturbing in his likeable but offensive way as was Robert De Niro's Travis in Taxi Driver. As executive producer Al Clark might say, after you've seen this film, you know you've seen something."
Andrew L. Urban

"Violent and disturbing, Chopper is a gripping and chilling insight into a life so outrageous, that we can hardly believe it is based on fact. For 94 unrelenting minutes, Andrew Dominik's hard-hitting screenplay introduces us to a demon of a man, whose unpredictable barbarous behaviour not only shocks, but grabs us in a headlock, twists us inside out, and startles with wry, sardonic humour. Monster? or man suffering from compulsive fits of rage and paranoia? We witness bizarre scenes when Chopper (pathetically remorseful after committing an atrocity), actually drives his victim to the nearest hospital. A total enigma, here is a man who lives in a perverse world of his own, desperate for notoriety and recognition. The realisation of this story to film, is a remarkable achievement; from the striking performances to the stark production design and tormenting score by Mick Harvey. Eric Bana's performance is devastating: he is imposing, repulsive, terrifying and overwhelmingly complex. The entire cast is strong, with Simon Lyndon almost unrecognisable after his pin-up role in Sample People. This is definitely not a comfortable film to watch I had to shut my eyes several times as the violence became unbearable. While we don't like any of the characters, we are totally engaged and mesmerised by them with all their incongruities, paradoxes and dilemmas. If you have a strong stomach or alternatively if strong stories fascinate you, you will be super-glued to your seat, as you amaze at the incredible complexities of human nature. A myriad of thoughts exploded in my head, as we are told at the end of the film that the real Chopper Read is now living on a farm in Tasmania."
Louise Keller

"Chopper's a pro - that we know, blow by blow. From the opening scene when Eric Bana proudly spits out the words 'humanity doesn't like me...I'm a freak show', Chopper announces itself as a film with a mission of intensity and makes good on the promise. The masterstroke of writer/director Andrew Dominik's pulsating debut is its ability to shock us with the appalling details of Choppers deeds and in the same breath elicit high comedy from the lowest depths. By his own admission Chopper Read might be an 'animal' but he's also a genuinely entertaining and witty raconteur who'd command big money on the after dinner speaking circuit if grisly tales of underworld murders, drug dealing and self mutilation ever became popular topics. As repulsive as the details are (the ear slashing scene renders the Reservoir Dogs equivalent inconsequential) Chopper also has some of the most
devastating black humour you're likely to witness. Try not to respond to Chopper's peculiar code which allows him to shoot a mate then drive him to the hospital or brush off the multiple stab wounds he suffered in a murder attempt as 'water under the bridge'. How much is fact and how much is fiction we can only guess, especially after the clear statement on the opening titles that reads 'this is not a biography'. What should be fact at the next AFIs is Eric Bana's award for Best Actor. Looking the part with a Merv Hughes moustache, a stare which could sharpen blunt knives and the most startling metal teeth since Jaws from the James Bond films, Bana oozes menace and grotesque charm at every turn. His performance needs to be totally compelling and it is. There are also fine contributions from Simon Lyndon as Jimmy Loughnan and Vince Colosimo as Neville but this is Bana's show all the way and he's brilliant. Chopper has a ferocity and a refusal to compromise or judge its central character which earns it the right not to be dismissed. For this reviewer it also has the power to never be forgotten."
Richard Kuipers



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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 3
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 0

Andrew L. Urban goes
ON LOCATION
CHOPPER: THE INSIDE STORY
SOUNDTRACK REVIEW

TRAILER

CHOPPER (R)
(Aust)

CAST: Eric Bana, Simon Lyndon, Vince Colosimo, David Field, Dan Wyllie, Bill Young, Kenny Graham, Kate Beahan

PRODUCERS: Michele Bennett

DIRECTOR: Andrew Dominik

SCRIPT: Andrew Dominik (based on Chopper Read's books)

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Kevin Hayward, Geoffrey Hall

EDITOR: Ken Sallows

MUSIC: Mick Harvey

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Paddy Reardon

RUNNING TIME: 94 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Palace/Fox

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: August 3, 2000







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