Projections - Movie Reviews

Chopper Chopper

In Chopper you can't help being drawn into the resilient psychopath whose life isn't that different than George Jung of Blow.  This unsettling, but stylish and reflective film will work for you if Eric Bana convinces you that an Australian career criminal can be despicable yet intelligent.  And Andrew Dominik's direction which draws from criminal capers like Natural Born Killers and Snatch can't downplay the violent bursts as he filters his lensing in chilling blue hues.

The personality of Mark Brandon Read, Chopper dominates a film that takes liberties with a ruthless killer's life as Dominik proves more adept behind the camera than the screenplay which is close to Read's sociopath of a nickname.  The visceral account strikingly blends the philosophical with spontaneous compulsion that won't sit well with viewers not knowing what's coming.

One of the most disturbing scenes in Chopper is the repulsive way he gets transferred out of cell block "H" in a maximum security prison in Melbourne for a fatal stabbing.  Approaching him in a friendly manner, Jimmy starts stabbing Read as he feels threatened by his cold-blooded friend.  But Chopper is seen with watery eyes as he feels his wounds and blood dripping down his prison garb.  And he eventually embraces Jimmy before positioning him to drop the shiv.  As in Blow friends easily betray as does Simon Lyndon's Jimmy.

Bana, for those who can sit through and stomach the ultra-violent Chopper, is a consistently riveting presence, mainly because of his charismatic unpredictability, but the story is diminished by the sheer presence of that personality.  The film is framed as he watches himself in a TV interview with two prison guards on his rise to fame in Australia.

His understanding into those that he has bonded with, displays a man like George Jung who is trying to find that satisfying relationship that gives meaning to his life.  Dominik isn't concerned with exposition or character sub-text but how Read has become an influential figure.  Dangerous situations lurk throughout and the unfazed killer knows how to repel a couple of dogged cops.

In a low-key manner the story parallels the imbalance but shrewd mind of a man seen over three decades becoming known for his Fu Manchu mustache, unflinching smile, and tattoos on his beer- belly.

In the closing credits Chopper is still alive after two prison stints retired to a Tasmania ranch and the film is literally cut into absorbing set pieces with scenes that make Bana's portrait of a cleverly smug rogue interesting but short-lived with his celebrity status making a good feature for Australian "Current Affair" TV.


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