AUSSIE CLASSICS: CHOPPER [2000]

Originally written as a bite-sized review for THOMAS J: My Journey Through Film, aka digitalshortbread.com

If you haven’t seen Chopper, watch it.

A movie that will forever linger in your brain, it is also perhaps the quintessential Aussie film, a preservation of the ‘occa’ culture that is sadly suffering a slow death chiefly due to political reasons whose details that are best saved for another day.

‘Taking the piss’, insulting your mates for laughs over a barbeque, the almost dead notion of mateship between every person – friend or stranger, not to mention the very black humour that is the name of the game in this dramatised biopic, are all represented in this eccentric barrel of laughs. Of course though, there are much more demented themes on show, but even these somehow render Chopper the embodiment of our laid back culture and its unique sense of humour – perhaps most funniest when old Chop-Chop shoots a man, only to drive him to the hospital immedietely afterwards.

A noticeably beefed up Eric Bana plays the larger than life character in a career best performance. It wasn’t long before this that he was limited to Australian TV soaps. It is hard to see this fact given the almost scary depiction of a legitimate maniac.

It is worth repeating that this essential Australian cinema; if you haven’t seen it, I envy you: if only I could go all Men In Black on myself and wipe the memory of all the viewings so I could see it for a first time again myself. I remember where I was and who I was with when I first saw this. It’s that type of movie. Or perhaps my sense of humour is too demented for its own good.

Bana truly inhibits the character of Mark ‘Chopper’ Read, an often psychotic Australian vigilante and ‘legendary criminal’ who was responsible for an unknown amount of deaths. He claims the number is 19, but he was only tried for one attempted murder, a charge he beat before moving on to become a best-selling writer while in prison for other criminal activity. A best-seller, as he laughs, “who can’t even bloody spell”.

During his first venture into crime he would assault drug-dealers, the scourge of the earth in his opinion, often using torture to force more money out of them. Apparently he was fond of blowtorches and bolt-cutters. He took a step up when he decided take on the criminal underworld of Melbourne. Unsurprisingly, he went about this violently.

All up, the guy is what I’d call a bloody good bloke.

For a 94 minute film, Chopper has a truly (and literally) insane amount of action, blood, and thoroughly memorable scenes with quotes that will stick. There is no bloated, two hour-plus slog to be found here, this is efficient filmmaking done right and a direct result of this is that the violent impact is maximised.

We first visit Chopper in prison, where the humourous nature of the film is quickly established, despite the fact than an ear is removed from its owner not far from the beginning. But even this scene is quite funny in how the script has been written.

Soon the violent criminal underworld becomes the principle backdrop, Bana constantly on-screen. His immensely dramatised depiction of Mark Read, coupled with the true to life unpredictable and violent personality of the subject, is a big reason why this flick is so goddamned unrelenting yet hilarious.

Its impossible to know what this crazy bastard is going to do next, but you can be pretty sure that it will include some form of violence. But thanks to a top-notch screenplay, involving Chop’s wild mood swings that funnily enough could be described as violent themselves, quieter scenes possess the same intimidating-as-all-hell feeling. Even if you’re laughing.

Mark Read was one of a kind, and there is no doubt that the5.5 beer - no beer top film is too – how dramatised his personality is portrayed though is an unknown. One could compare Chopper to Winding Refn’s Bronson in some ways: the black humour, the violence, the notoriety of the subject. But even with this comparison, the differences outweigh the similarities. Chopper is arguably the best Australian film of decade (and no, Fury Road doesn’t count) and every cinephile should add it to their watchlist, if only to see Eric Bana play a part unlike anything else he has done. That and, well, as mentioned, it couldn’t be more Aussie in every conceivable way.

5 and a half beers out a sixer.

5.5/6


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11 Comments on “AUSSIE CLASSICS: CHOPPER [2000]

  1. Great post 🙂 And this was seven years before it’s director Andrew Dominik made his 2007 masterpiece The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford 🙂 Anyway, keep up the great work as always 🙂

    P.S. how you hangin during this COVID-19 pandemic?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Australia, well the smaller states, were barely touched. Life has been back to 95% normal for at least a month now. I’m lucky to live in such a huge country with such a small population. Sydney and Melbourne got hit pretty bad tho, they have cerfews and the borders are shut down, which I’m happy about.

      I heard in the US people are still travelling freely, which sounds insane to me, as closing the border is what prevented a severe outbreak here.
      Tho I guess I shouldn’t count my chickens just yet eh?

      Thanks for reading as always John! I intend to post much more often and, in fact I plan to rewatch every movie I reviewed when I first started, and review it, to see how different it is.

      So back to 2014 I’ll be travelling! 🙂

      BTW I didn’t even know that was the guy who did Jesse James! Well there you go. That name rings a bell tho, did he do m Macbeth a few years ago?

      Liked by 1 person

    • Nope, just looked it up, that was another Aussie director Justin Kurzel. I still need to watch the True History of Ned Kelly, as the 2006 movie isn’t the best, though Heath Ledger was unsurprisingly amazing.
      That same dude did The Snowtown Murders too. That whole story is true and happened in my backyard. Its rather terrifying, I gihly recommend it!!!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Heath Ledger was undoubtedly the best aspect of the 2006 Ned Kelly film. Though I am a US citizen, I first started hearing bits and pieces about that in the media in 1999 since that was when the perpetrators were caught. Nevertheless, it was not until that 2011 film came out that I started reading more about it. I am so glad they never got to you considering that they were in your backyard. You must have been shaken up at the time? Once again though, I am so glad that nothing happened to you.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Heh well given I live under a huge rock, don’t watch TV, don’t even have an arial and rarely leave the house, I was completely ignorant to it all. I was also young, and very very naive. I cannot stress that last point enough haha!

        Hell… I only saw the movie a few years ago for the first time, and it was only a few years before that when I heard about it all from a mate – he was stunned I didn’t know anything about it

        Its a freakin crazy story. There are some very, very dark parts of this country that most people don’t know about Australia – that story is one of many, but most are buried before folk know about it. Snowtown is different in that a lot of people knew all about what was going down waaaay before anything was found. It if didn’t go down like that, that movie wouldn’t exist.

        But that stuff pales in comparison to how we have treated Aboriginal people and how we –still– treat people who try to leave their country because of war, poverty… they pour all their money into being on a shitty boat that MIGHT get here without sinking.

        If they do make it, they are promptly thrown into a detention centre, which is scarily close to a concentration camp. No rights, no knowledge of if they will ever get out. There have been two recent docos about that stuff, but they got no attention, unsurprisingly. People have literally sewn their lips shut in protest.
        The most devilish aspect of it all to me is that every employee, no matter their role, cannot disclose anything that is happening there. They have to sign stuff that means if they talk about it at all outside the centre, they are breaking the law and will be quickly arrested and silenced

        Sorry I’ll shut up now. That last issue really pisses me off.
        Do you use the messenger program, it is linked to facebook I think. It’d be cool to have a fellow movie-obsessionist (:P) to chat to!! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  2. As for a messenger program, this may sound a little awkward, but I do not have a facebook account or a twitter account because I do not even know how to create one. I mean I do know that it involves creating a password and stuff, but I would love to when I get the chance to learn from the sites on how 🙂 I also love it that you love talking about films as much as I do 🙂 Speaking of Australian cinema, did you ever see The Proposition, which is an Aussie western? 🙂

    Like

    • I love that director, John Hillcoat, I had to look his name up haha. Looking at it though, he makes a shitload of music videos, I didn’t know that. He has worked with some big names in music, Nick Cave, Robert Plant, Massive Attack, that’s just three huge names and three of several. In film, freakin Tom Hardy, Ray Winstone, Gary Oldman, Jessica Chastain, Jason Clarke. And VIGGO in The Road, which was only his third feature film! That’s why Viggo is my man crush hehe, he’ll do anything and that movie must have made Hillcoat’s name, its one of my favourite post apocalyptic movies, in my favourite genre. Us Aussies tend to make good movies like that eh? Mad Max, The Rover…

      Triple 9 wasn’t great though. Looks like he is filming a new one, Witchcraft. Dunno who will be in it but the guy somehow has been able to work with some huge names.

      Do you use twitter? any way to communicate and talk about film would be cool, its obvious you have seen a lot more movies than me!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Speaking of Nick Cave, did you ever listen to that song he wrote and co-sang with the always beautiful Kylie Minogue entitled “Where the Wild Roses Grow”? 🙂 Hard to believe that it turned 25 this year (it was initially released in 1995). Nick Cave’s score to The Proposition is haunting stuff – I love it 🙂 And yes, you Aussies are masters at the post-Apocalyptic genre 🙂 Even If Hillcoat’s last one or two films left a lot to be desired, let us hope that when he does his next film, he gains that jolt of creativity that we saw in his music videos and films like The Proposition and The Road 🙂

        I sure would love to learn how to create a twitter account one of these days because If I did, me and you can talk back and forth about films and stuff 🙂 I know I have my own blogging site too, but still 🙂

        Like

      • just go to the site and sign up with your email. It doesn’t take much more than that, then you just tell me what username you picked and then I can add you and we can chat =D

        and yeah that song is a classic down here, they are both adopted aussies remember hehe, both born and raised down under ;D

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Thanks for the tips Jordan 🙂 I shall consider creating a twitter account when I get the time – which is hopefully soon 🙂

    Two legendary adopted Aussies as well 🙂 Speaking of Kylie, she has come a long way indeed. I read somewhere that she started out on this Australian soap opera entitled “Neighbours” I believe 🙂 As much as I love her early work, I personally believe that she just kept improving as an artist – in other words, she kept getting better and better 🙂 Same goes for Nick Cave, who just gets better and better as well 🙂 Coincidentally, he co-composed (with Warren Ellis) the music score to The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford 🙂

    Like

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