In the introduction to Brett Easton Ellis’ American Psycho (on which the recent film was based), the author quotes Dostoevsky’s Notes From the Underground.
“…such persons as the composer of these Notes not only exist in our society, but indeed must exist, considering the circumstances in which our society has generally been formed.”
Whether in Dostoevsky’s Russia or Easton Ellis’ Wall Street, there has definitely been a place carved out for work that aims to explore the fascinating aspects and knee slapping humor to be found in society’s most atrocious element. While about as far removed from the high falutin’ literary ramblings of a Russian novelist as a film can be, Chopper is a highly transgressive film that fits well into a canon of interesting film and literature that I would never recommend to my mother.
“Don’t Touch me, I’m a Real Live Wire”
A Clockwork Orange
Natural Born Killers
Chopper concerns the life and times of Mark “Chopper” Read, Australia’s favorite heroic psycho killer. The film is loosely (how loosely is never really clear) based on a series of stories written by Read glorifying some fairly awful schtuff. “Chopper” is a lovely gent who’s awfully fond of neck stabbings, point-blank shootings, prostitute punching, and head-butting old women.
In real life, it seems, Read is a legitimate Australian media sensation, capable of selling hundreds of thousands of copies of admittedly exaggerated tales of ultraviolence despite possessing what he calls “semi-literacy”.
In and out of prison for countless violent crimes, Chopper (Eric Bana) makes a mark for himself through a series of incidents that are none to easy to watch. In one scene mentioned in almost any review you’ll read on this film, he withstands multiple stab wounds from his friend Jimmy (Simon Lyndon) The stabbings don’t seem to faze him too much, and he maintains remarkable poise, a clear speaking voice, and an eerie compassion throughout the whole ordeal.
In yet another of the film’s unforgettable moments, Chopper forces a fellow inmate to rip off not one, but two of his ears to avoid being offed by fellow inmates.
Yipes…What is That?
Chopper’s ego is as enormous as the blatantly false penis he pulls out of his pants in an attempt to impress an attractive female in a bar. His self-obsessive confidence drives both extreme paranoia and the inexplicable charm he seems to possess over his …um… friends. Blessed with a metal mouth that would make James Bond’s Jaws proud and a boatload o’ tattoos, Chopper looks like a kind of beefed up biker version of Edward Norton’s skinhead character in American History X.
Eric Bana, a standup comedian in his first lead role, does an impeccable job of portraying the unabashed violence buff with a downright spunky sense of humor. His believable calm in particular moments is pretty bone-chilling.
After Chopper, Bana is an easy candidate for being forever typecast as a bouncer/bad dude role. Given the complexity he adds to what could have potentially been a flat stereotype of a character, you hope Bana ends up landing roles that take advantage of his obvious talent.
A Bit of the Ol’ In Out /In Out
Some pretty obvious comparisons can be drawn to films like A Clockwork Orange, Natural Born Killers, Reservoir Dogs, and The Bad Lieutenant.
As in all of those films, despite the main character’s devotion to all things nasty, the audience ends up laughing along with the killer. We begin to start thinking in terms of whether or not the victims deserve to be tortured and mutilated. Chopper, after all, claims to get away with countless murders because he prefers killing society’s “filth” – the drug dealers and junkies he believes to be “destroying the criminal world”.
Another similar example is the recent success of The Sopranos, a phenomenal TV series that in the last season has featured characters beating women to death, point-blank executions, and violent rape. Yet Tony Soprano is one of the most beloved characters on TV and The Sopranos garners outstanding ratings. When Tony kills people, though, for the most part it’s because they’ve broken “the code” that runs his organization. You see Tony do something despicable, but forget it all happened when he’s sharing his emotions with the compassionate Dr. Melfy.
While Andrew Dominik’s film is nowhere near as visually impressive as A Clockwork Orange, as pointed in its commentary as Natural Born Killers, or half as good as a single episode of The Sopranos, the film’s stylistic intentions are consistently successful. Chopper is also easily as interesting a character as any Mickey and Mallorey , Mr. Blonde, or Polly Walnuts. He may actually go down as one of cinema’s most memorable nasty bastards.
G’day My Ass
If you’re looking for a playful romp akin to the whoop-it-up “Crocodile Dundee” trilogy, avoid this flick like the ebola virus. There are very few “g’days”, but more than one scene that may make you want to vomit. Don’t bring a first date, your mama, or your kid sister. “Chopper” is unrated for a reason.
If however, you have a tolerance for edgy cinema and an interest in catching something decidedly memorable, Chopper should be up your alley.
You might want to get there quick, though. From the size of the crowd on opening night, it might not be around Boulder for too long.
Make sure and get there to catch the Mushroom Pictures trailer – best ten seconds of the whole picture.