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Buy from Amazon

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Image Entertainment presents
Chopper (2001)

"Why would I shoot a bloke, and then put him in the bloody car and whizz him off to the hospital at 100 miles-per-hour? It defeats the purpose of having shot him in the first place."
- Mark "Chopper" Read (Eric Bana)

Review By: Dan Heaton   
Published: December 12, 2001

Stars: Eric Bana, Simon Lyndon, David Field, Dan Wyllie
Other Stars: Bill Young, Vince Colosimo, Kenny Graham, Kate Beahan
Director: Andrew Dominik

MPAA Rating: R for (contains graphic violence, language, and brief nudity)
Run Time: 01h:30m:17s
Release Date: November 13, 2001
UPC: 014381120226
Genre: drama


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
B B-B+A- B+

DVD Review

Mark Brandon "Chopper" Read (Eric Bana) sits calmly in a chair while a fellow inmate attacks his ears with a razor blade. Blood spurts profusely from both sides of his head in a disgusting manner. This vicious removal of parts of his ears is Mark's idea, and he urges the cutter to act quicker and chop deeper. This crazy willingness to defile his body stems from his desire to enter the hospital and separate from certain dangerous inmates. While ingenious, this idea also originates from the mind of an extremely unstable individual. Mark exudes significant charm, but beneath the exterior is a troubled soul with a knack for extreme violence. Chopper introduces this unique Australian in stylish fashion and presents his serious troubles when returned to everyday society.

This story is a dramatization of the tales of the real-life Mark Brandon "Chopper" Read, a gruff, imposing figure in his own right (see extras section) with significant notoriety. It begins in 1978 during his extensive stay in prison as a younger man, and this brutal environment immediately comes into play. Without any warning, Chopper repeatedly stabs an adversary in the face and murders him. The entire moment lasts only a few seconds, but its effect is immense and reveals his dark and violent nature. When Mark faces a similar disastrous fate in retaliation, he expresses virtually zero feelings of shock, remorse, or sadness. Instead, he just stares at the attacker with complete nonchalance about the situation. Blood is pouring from numerous places in his body, but the Chopper hardly offers any hints of the intense pain from his wounds.

Following his release from prison in 1986, Chopper returns to society and proceeds to create havoc wherever he goes. He fires shots in the air and causes a major scene when his girl flirts with another guy at a local bar, which conveys his lack of control over his harsh temper. The film follows him through confrontations with various small-time hoods, drug fiends, and police officers, and the end result is confusing and tedious. A slightly coherent plot appears about a contract taken out on his life, but the actual circumstances are never very clear. This jumble of events makes it more difficult to care about Chopper's predicament, which is foreshadowed by the opening shots of the movie. There are a few intriguing relationships, including one with his father, who appears to enjoy the sordid life that he leads. Unfortunately, the interest falters without a solid foundation to make the events more accessible.

Luckily, Eric Bana delivers a remarkable performance that lessens the difficulties of the script. He totally inhabits this fiery character and makes his odd plight much more believable. Following his violent actions, Chopper immediately feels tremendous remorse for the deed but fails to realize the extent of the damage. Following the stabbing mentioned above, he begins to sob and tells his victim that everything will be okay. This behavior contrasts sharply with the cool, tough-guy image that usually stems from his persona. A popular comedian in Australia, Bana perfectly conveys the strange mannerisms of this conflicted individual. Although he appears to enjoy his criminal life, a sadder element exists in his mind that is difficult to ignore.

Andrew Dominik directs with an inventive confidence that will surely make this film a favorite among many avid filmgoers. Throughout the story, the events shine with specific colors that appear to relate to the events occurring. The shots within the prison involve cold hues that are washed out and create a morose tone. Once Chopper leaves the jail, the emphasis shifts towards a reddish tint that connects with the energetic lifestyle of the city. Many of these scenes take place at night, and the visual style creates a disturbing quality to the picture while disturbing events occur.

Chopper presents a relatively interesting story about a criminal with little thoughts about the conventions of society. When he learns an associate is making big money, he points a gun in his face and asks for a piece. Chopper eventually writes a novel about his actions that goes on to sell countless copies to the masses. The real-life story is fodder for a compelling motion picture, but this release falls short and slips towards a duller state. Dominik injects plenty of style and Bana does his best, but the end result for me was surprising emptiness.

Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: B-

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.78:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: Chopper contains an impressive 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer that nicely conveys Andrew Dominik's varying use of color throughout the film. While the images are not pristine and fall short of premier status, this is still an above-average presentation. The black levels are solid, and a minimal amount of grain exists. This is especially important since much of the story takes place during the night hours. The picture in the prison is especially well-done, with the bleak, simple set design providing the necessary tone for this environment.

Image Transfer Grade: B+

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes
Dolby Digital
5.1
Englishyes
DTSEnglishyes


Audio Transfer Review: This disc features an impressive 5.1-channel DTS track that utilizes the surround speakers remarkably. During the tense moments in prison, inmates shout through the walls at each other from all sides of the sound field. This transfer nicely isolates these noises to a variety of places within the area. Plenty of power stems from this track, which offers a well-done complexity throughout the feature. There's also a 5.1-channel Dolby Digital track, which contains significant force, but is less effective in presenting the wider sound field. The 2.0-channel Dolby Surround transfer gives a clear sound, but obviously lacks the depth of its counterparts.

Audio Transfer Grade: A-

 

Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 22 cues and remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
5 Deleted Scenes
1 Documentaries
2 Feature/Episode commentaries by Director Andrew Dominik; Mark "Chopper" Read
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extras Review: Chopper offers an impressive set of extra features that provides a large amount of background into the production and the real-life elements. The highlight is obviously the feature-length commentary from the actual Mark Brandon "Chopper" Read. He appears to enjoy discussing the film and its accuracy in relation to his life. It is eerie to have a figure whose actions are not laudable talking about committing murders, doing drugs, and creating havoc. Chopper seems to have no qualms about his past acts, but also doesn't glorify his deeds either. He calls himself a "great show-off" as a young man and discusses everything honestly. In regards to the prison killings, he explains the idea to "hit him hard, hit him fast, and get out quick.". Chopper is an entertaining speaker, and his insights provide an intriguing connection between the film and reality.

The second commentary from director Andrew Dominik is more generic and typical of most DVD releases. His words are mostly scene-specific, but he gives plenty of interesting material about the production. He begins by immediately addressing the criticism of doing a film about an immoral character, and continues to speak openly throughout the track. Dominik also nicely explains the contradictions in Chopper's ideas while still conveying a respect for the man.

This disc also contains Weekend with Chopper—a series of clips taken by home video from Eric Bana's stay on Chopper's farm in Tazmania. The actor must have closely studied his subject's mannerisms while staying with him. Bana's movements and speaking tone closely mirror Chopper's real-life actions. The feature runs for about 16 minutes and offers some nice insight into the man. There's also a collection of 5 deleted scenes that cover more than 12 minutes. The most interesting is the story of "Hooky the Cripple," which begins with real footage of Chopper relating the tale and then switches to Bana performing the scene. Finally, there's the full-frame trailer, which includes quotes from critics and effectively creates interest in the subject matter.

Extras Grade: B+

 

Final Comments

Immediately prior to Chopper's theatrical run, it was difficult to go see any smaller film without watching the intriguing preview for this story. The trailer appeared to promise a satire on fame and the place of a violent killer within the ranks of celebrity. Instead, this movie takes a more personal look at the person without trying to explain his rough tendencies. While it falls short of expectations, Eric Bana's performance and several interesting supplements make this release a worthwhile option.

 


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