Chopper Read gets the big screen treatment in this adaptation of some of Read's stories. With Bana's vehement performance we get to see the plain and simple version of the crime underworld.Mark Brandon 'Chopper' Read: What recognition should be given to him? Not only is he a criminal, but he has profited from his notoriety by writing some best selling books. His name is linked to a number of murders, yet has only gone to court for one - And got off. What the hell is this guy doing being a pop crime star?
A pathological liar - not to be trusted - he tells made up stories like how he's in with corrupt police. Forget any history rewriting squabbles like in U-571 or The Patriot, the history wasn't written properly in the first place. He doesn't consider himself to be evil when he kills, since he kills criminals - he claims that the general public has nothing to fear from him.
Are being a good storyteller and a larrikin spirit good enough for us to overlook his murderous past and make him a pop anti-idol? It seems it is as we see some of Chopper's adventures being committed to the screen.
After the fun of the crime fiction film, Judas Kiss, Chopper comes as quite a jolt. There's no wise cracking cool here. It's all gritty realism of the crime underworld. There's no romanticised view of crime - no stylised violence. Just plain old ear cutting. Remember in Reservoir Dogs where the camera pans away as the guy's ear gets cut off? No luxury here as we learn precisely how Read lost his ears - Ew.
In this film we don't get inside Read's head very much - it would have be interesting to try and explore what makes Read tick. There's no hint to why Read is like he is - how did he get into the business? Is he ill? We know he's sick, but is he ill? Is he a cold calculated professional or is he just too mixed up to do anything else? Since the movie is largely based on Read's books of disturbing popularity, Read wouldn't want to reveal too much himself (if he knows anyway), so we don't learn in the books-based movie.
This is the most intense jail film since Ghosts Of The Civil Dead - the tone is set in the jail where everything is stark, grim and just plain ugly. With a similar feel as the TV shows Phoenix and Janus, the tone is continued on the outside when he is released with the drug taking and matter of fact portrayal of the violence.
With the prevalence of stylised violence greeting our cinema eyes, Chopper gives us a timely reminder that violence isn't particularly pleasant. The shootings and stabbings are shown with no fanfare, John-Woo-style-slow-motion or rock tune so we see violence for what it really is. Chopper is to organised crime what The Thin Red Line was for war.
Set in the 70s/ early 80s there is a strange absurdity in the look of the characters. It seems that the most ridiculous 70s hairstyles ever created were used for characters. With Chopper excused of a bad hairstyle, the look of the characters helps set Chopper apart from everybody else - as if he is something quite different from the rest of us.
Bana gives a nicely subdued performance. He needed to tip toe between totally deranged killer and comedian. Bana plays it so we are not really sure if Read is being serious or not. Does Chopper know how sickening we think he is? Does he think he is sickening?Andrew Dominick should be praised for his direction in the film - the seedy feel and the performances he extracts from Bana and the rest of the cast is impressive. Yet it is in his script that disappoints as he offers little insight into the person behind Chopper. This film leaves you with more questions that you had entering and the film answers few of them.