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film criticism by maryann johanson | since 1997

Chopper (review)

Mark “Chopper” Read is one of Australia’s best-selling authors — he’s also a multiple murderer and generally notorious criminal. Now, his books recounting — and exaggerating — his life on the wrong side of the law have been turned into the blackest of crime comedies. Standup comic Eric Bana portrays Chopper with a fierce charisma befitting the larger- than- life anti-hero the real Read imagines himself to be, moving with astonishing ease from the composed, dynamic, lean machine Chopper is in prison, in the film’s first half, to the gone-to-seed paranoiac filled with uncontrollable rage Chopper reverts to in the outside world, in the film’s second half. But while the sometimes grimly funny preternatural calm Chopper displays early on is merely the manifestation of his tough-guy fantasies, his pathological inability to deal with life outside prison feels more like a fair representation of a man unable to truly control his own actions, or even to understand what demons drive him. When the older, post-prison Chopper asks, in all sincerity, “Are you all right?” of someone he has just shot in the head, I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry for a man so lost. First-time writer/director Andrew Dominik doesn’t shy from horrifyingly blunt and graphic depictions of violence, letting the very casualness of Chopper’s crimes speak for itself, challenging us to make any more sense of Chopper’s psychopathy than he can make of himself. Like Romper Stomper, that other Australian film that unflinchingly shows us cold brutality without presuming to explain it, this is a profoundly disturbing movie, and an important one.

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MPAA: not rated

viewed at a private screening with an audience of critics

official site | IMDb
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