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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 19.35%
Average: 12.9%
Pretty Bad: 0.81%
Total Crap: 5.65%

8 reviews, 76 user ratings

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by Andrew Howe

"Makes Jake Heke look like a pacifist"
3 stars

Australians are renowned for revering criminals who, in any other country, would be dismissed as little more than common thugs. International visitors to Victoria's bushranger country are left to puzzle over memorials to the likes of Ned Kelly, a murderous highwayman (circa 1875) whose less-than-heroic acts included the torture of police officers unlucky enough to fall into his grasp. Our origins as a convict colony occasionally see us champion those who would rebel against authority, regardless of their credentials, perverting the larrikin spirit into something which encompasses a blatant dismissal of the unpalatable facts.

Which brings us to the case of Mark "Chopper" Read. A career criminal from an early age, Read supposedly made a name for himself by murdering a considerable number of his brethren, before finding fame and fortune through a string of best-selling books which chronicle his reprehensible deeds. I say "supposedly", because most of his assertions have never been proven (since his books amount to one long confession, we would imagine he'd be behind bars if there was any evidence to support his claims), but anybody who has seen the real-life Read on one of his infrequent talk-show appearances has to believe at least some of it (one infamous session saw him giggling drunkenly at the memory of the people he'd murdered, which tried the patience of even his staunchest supporters).

Chopper is a dramatisation of key moments in Read's career, and while I don't believe he's deserving of any more exposure than he's already received, his escapades make for an absorbing, confronting film, albeit one which succeeds solely on the strength of its lead actor.

Said actor is Eric Bana, a fresh-faced performer who, prior to the film's release, was best known for his appearances on a local sketch-comedy television programme. Asking him to portray Read appeared to be the equivalent of casting Tom Hanks as a serial killer, but it proved to be a masterstroke, for Bana's astonishing performance is so close to the spirit of the real-life Read that it's almost eerie.

Read exhibits a bizarre fascination for the viewer - you know he's the original thug-without-a-conscience, but there are moments when you can't help but admire his rough-and-ready charm. Bana is a personable fellow (as anyone who witnessed his promotional interviews for the film will attest), and his natural affability defuses any attempt to divorce yourself from the proceedings. So it is that we are confronted with a character who stabs people in the neck, shoots them in the face and head-butts his girlfriend's mother, while finding the time to make us laugh at some of his more outlandish statements and acts.

The film's oppressive atmosphere is heightened by Read's unpredictability - his friendly manner masks an underlying menace, and this makes for some intense confrontations. You're rolling along with his good-natured patter, waiting for the moment when the gloves come off and the knives come out, and the tension hits the red-zone as you detect the subtle shift in his manner which suggests that violence can't be far away. However, he occasionally manages to control himself, and at these moments the sense of relief is almost palpable. It's a delicate balancing-act, and without Bana would have been all-but inconceivable.

The supporting players take a back seat to Bana's brilliance, though Simon Lyndon is suitably edgy as Read's no-hoper buddy, and Vince Colosimo's over-the-top performance is hugely enjoyable, even if it is in the service of that beloved Australian icon, the ethnic stereotype.

The script chooses to concentrate on the latter part of Read's life, and I suspect this is the result of a conscious decision to only portray the events which are supported by some measure of hard evidence. This has two unfortunate side effects, however: the extent of Read's nefarious activities is tempered by the fact that approximately 17 alleged murders are relegated to the status of a throwaway line (the script doesn't glorify him, but the scales are definitely tipped in his favour) and the film as a whole feels a little light, as if it's nothing more than a succession of snapshots. It is, in fact, exactly that, so anyone expecting an insightful, multi-layered narrative would be advised to look elsewhere. There's also precious little insight into Read's character, though to be fair, there's probably little complexity to his psychological make-up (apparently the DVD edition will feature a commentary by the real-life Read, which is vaguely disturbing - the thought of Read commenting on the accuracy with which his murders are portrayed borders on the perverse).

Anyone expecting gut-punch violence will not be disappointed - the film features spraying blood galore, and portrays it in a disturbingly matter-of-fact fashion, stripped of the gloss that is a feature of many big-budget releases. These scenes are suitably arresting, and leave little doubt as to the true effects of real-life violence. The dialogue and attitude is also 100% Australian - if you find yourself wondering whether people really talk and act that way on the mean streets of Melbourne, I can attest to the fact that they most certainly do (if The Castle was an advertisement for the friendly Australian, Chopper shows you what you'll get if you walk into the wrong bar at closing time).

Chopper is, if not an unqualified success, certainly a diverting way to spend ninety minutes of your time. Bana's performance is worth the price of admission alone, and the script provides a number of intense scenes, a fine line in jet-black humour ("Say goodnight to Uncle Chop"), and the occasional flight-of-fancy to enliven the proceedings. It is what it is - nobody's under the impression that they're crafting the next great crime thriller or character study, and the result is an honest effort which, if it doesn't amount to much when all is said and done, is still an absorbing chronicle of a highly unusual character.

"Never let the truth get in the way of a good story". Fair words, but heed the warning well: see it, but try not to believe it.

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originally posted: 03/25/01 16:06:41
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User Comments

12/29/17 Tom Philpott Total snd utter Australian crap. BANAVICH IS OVERRATED 100% 1 stars
9/14/17 morris campbell A good portrait Bana is excellent 4 stars
3/14/07 leah dat shit was mean 5 stars
8/07/06 ERIN SWEENEY A new classic,it is now on my favorite and must have list 5 stars
7/03/06 Reklc Just say Chopp, Chopp and you got a great flick. 5 stars
6/30/05 Janek Who says crime doesnt pay!! 5 stars
5/11/05 Nick You yanks cannot understand your own pathetic country. Give up and eat another big mac. 5 stars
11/01/04 tom butler fucken ace 5 stars
10/20/04 peter brown fu**ing wild. brilliant film 5 stars
3/23/04 jane absolutely brilliant... 5 stars
3/01/04 michael scott never let the truth get in the way of a good yarn eh. 5 stars
1/08/04 james s awsome 5 stars
1/07/04 Rajneesh Chopra Intakhab IV Dad! 5 stars
12/30/03 tony why isnt there a chopper 2/ 1 was excellant 5 stars
10/16/03 Beck It was absolutley fantastic - Eric Bana Rocks 5 stars
10/12/03 dale auty bloody excellent 5 stars
8/28/03 melissa Best Eva Chop Chop is the best -run for prime-minister 5 stars
8/15/03 Drew Cady best movie ever 5 stars
7/26/03 bill jones great 4 stars
7/03/03 Tim Seed I absolutely agree with Chris Parry 5 stars
6/29/03 fran drescher i played with myself because itwas that good 5 stars
6/26/03 terry a stringer the world would be a safer place with people like him 5 stars
6/23/03 karen mcdonald brilliant but wheres the other stuff they left out ? 4 stars
4/25/03 mr. Pink Tried to be hip very hard. Too much style, not much substance. Bana was OK 2 stars
4/10/03 Melinda Coady The Govt wanted his $ from this film so Chopper donated it to Child.Hospital. On ya Chopper 5 stars
4/03/03 ohyeah fricken awesome. GIVE ME MORE 5 stars
3/05/03 @#$%^&*!@ I LOVE CHOPPER 5 stars
2/11/03 adam rodwell more,more 5 stars
11/15/02 j.watson shit hot 5 stars
11/12/02 Amber Grassam Great film. Shame alot of things that went on were left out 4 stars
8/02/02 beau mather absolutely fucking wickedly brutally excellent!!!!!!!!!!! 5 stars
5/25/02 larry get part two rolling 5 stars
4/02/02 The Bomb 69 interesting storyline but the movie was all over the place, how did he get away with this?? 3 stars
2/16/02 Belinda Jane Chopper let us see the Chopper he wants us to think he is...... 4 stars
1/28/02 Denise Xerri fucking brilliant 5 stars
1/17/02 Davin Boscence Just Bloody Terrific!!! 5 stars
1/13/02 Peter Stisnijovski A movie that you can't sleep thru it (ENJOYED IT and it was funny, but real) 5 stars
12/15/01 denis jared one of the best moves ive seen and the books a must 5 stars
11/25/01 Karl Kissick Greatest Film i've seen in a long time!! 5 stars
11/01/01 Choppers_Girl_Fan The best movie ever 5 stars
10/14/01 Angela Davis the best filck I've ever seen. 10out of 10 5 stars
10/02/01 stephen dilworth excellent 5 stars
9/16/01 renee white i love chopper he is the best 5 stars
8/16/01 anthony west very good 5 stars
5/12/01 The King Great movie, definately worth the money 4 stars
5/07/01 fleakitty charismatic rogue or sociopathic demon? eric bana(na)'s perfect as always. talented man! 5 stars
4/30/01 Mike A none too shabby 5 stars
4/22/01 ricky whitfort very funny movie not far from the truth 4 stars
4/18/01 Robbo Very good 4 stars
4/10/01 Pweter Harshly realistic, incrediable character, unquie 5 stars
4/01/01 wade "bucketbongbouncer" macdonald its tha fuckin best movie 5 stars
3/31/01 fred a bit eerie!!!! 5 stars
2/25/01 Wade Barry like him or not ... absolutley AMAZING ! look at the awards...enuff said 5 stars
2/09/01 hum very well crafted film. be warned, it is as unpleasant as it should be 4 stars
1/30/01 Rubber Fucking Great!!! 5 stars
1/08/01 Jeff Best movie of the year 5 stars
10/12/00 m larsen loved it!!!! 5 stars
9/26/00 Lolita Martinez It was bloody phenomenal!!!!! 5 stars
8/27/00 Timbo Great but the violence made me wince. Fascinating characters, strong acting 4 stars
8/23/00 Geoff Stewart Didn't glorify just lacked any point, do I really give a shit about Chopper Read? 3 stars
8/21/00 Gribbles bloody fantastic mate 5 stars
8/17/00 justin athanitis it is the best movie that i have ever had the pleasure of being able to watch. excelent. 5 stars
8/17/00 neil bartlett an awesome performance from Eric Bana 4 stars
8/15/00 Mick Edwards Eric Bana - Russell Crowe watch out!!! 5 stars
8/14/00 K. Johnson Rather good 5 stars
8/13/00 Belinda And.........the AFI goes to "Eric Bana" 4 stars
8/12/00 ashley james kennedy i have seen it once and plan togo back (still a very good move 5 stars
8/11/00 Nick Excellent 5 stars
8/09/00 Scot Tindall an underdeveloped character study 3 stars
8/07/00 Viling Stop glorifying psychos !!!! 3 stars
8/05/00 ashley james kennedy very good 5 stars
8/04/00 matthew smith the best Australian film in many years, confronting and very funny. 5 stars
7/31/00 filmnet cutting edge filmaking that even chris parry might like! 5 stars
7/23/00 TIGGER Whoa! Soooo cool! I have seen it 5 times and I will see it more! 5 stars
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  11-Apr-2001 (R)
  DVD: 13-Nov-2001


  03-Aug-2000 (R)

Directed by
  Andrew Dominik

Written by
  Andrew Dominik

  Eric Bana
  Simon Lyndon
  Daniel Wyllie
  Vince Colosimo
  David Field
  Bill Young

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