Release Date: November 2, 2001
Running Time: approximately 90 minutes
Ten-second Rundown: A small-time criminal builds himself a legend by
preying on the Australian underworld - or maybe not.
Commentary by Director
Commentary by the
real Mark "Chopper" Read
"Weekend With Chopper,"
documentary with star Eric Bana meeting Mark "Chopper" Read
Choice Scene:To get into solitary, Chopper has a fellow inmate
slice off his ears.
Tech Specs: Widescreen,
aspect ratio 1.78:1, English Dolby DTS 5.1 surround sound, Dolby 2.0.
Type of disc: Dual Layer Format
Comic fandom was
rocked last month by the announcement that Director Ang Lee had chosen
a virtual unknown to star as Bruce Banner in the film version of The
Incredible Hulk. Despite the success of Hugh Jackman as Wolverine,
fans worried that Australian stand-up comedian and actor Eric Bana just
would not have the stones to play the tortured scientist.
But now, thanks
to Image Entertainment, American fans can see what Ang Lee sees, as
Bana's first movie, Chopper, has arrived on DVD. And what an
arrival it is.
Bana plays Mark
"Chopper" Read, a real-life criminal and best-selling author who has
become something of a folk hero in Australia. Pretty much a tour de
force for Bana, the film thinly fictionalizes key events in Chopper's
Beginning in a stark
blue-lit prison, we meet Chopper as he tries to build his reputation by
antagonizing a rival prison gang. Eventually this leads to a hit taken
out on him, a contract carried out by his best friend Jimmy (Simon Lyndon).
Chopper, however, proves too tough to kill. Or did it even happen? Clearly,
Chopper is no reliable narrator, as keen to impress us with his myth as
he is other criminals. All we do know for sure is that he has his own
ears removed to prove his worth, which somehow morphs into a reputation
for chopping off the ears of others.
Upon his release
into society, he proves to be no better. Acting as a snitch, ordinarily
considered rather weaselly, Chopper uses his status with the police
as an excuse to blackmail drug and arms dealers. The affable crook alternately
dares and charms the law, to the point that they lose track of the truth,
And yet the film
has a palpable menace. The trick accomplished here by writer/director
Andrew Dominik is to keep us from really knowing the truth. Chopper
may seem to be pulling our leg, but some of the acts of violence have
to have been real, though possibly unintentional. No matter the truth,
the man is definitely a few bubbles short of a Foster's.
As Chopper, Bana
handles the transitions from charming to dangerous with an ease that
bodes well for his turn in The Incredible Hulk, and that's what
you really want to know, isn't it? He can look naïve and innocent, perfect
for Banner, but easily taps into a frightening rage.
The real power
of Bana's performance doesn't come through until you watch the documentary
in which he chats with the real Chopper. In the film he will disturb
you, but knowing that he has captured the real spirit of Chopper makes
it even more disturbingly fun.
Then watch the
film again with Chopper's own commentary. Kept as a separate track from
Dominik's commentary, Chopper adds another layer to the myth-building.
Where Dominik would have you understand that he has made changes to
tell a better story, Chopper wants you to know "…this sort of stuff
really happened," before launching into tales of his own prowess.
Even without the
interest of an actor with a career about to explode (Bana also stars
in upcoming Oscar-bait Black Hawk Down), Chopper is cool
surprise. Both homage to and departure from the spate of Tarantino-clones
American indie cinema has produced over the last few years, it's definitely
worth more than a look.
Buy it here