In the middle of the 80’s, the hot action shows like Knight Rider and the A-Team were keeping viewers glued to the screen, and Wes Craven’s popularity took off with the release of A Nightmare on Elm Street. Consequently, his work was instantly gobbled up by movie studios quickly for adaptation to the big and "People used to often accuse me of being paranoid. I mean I've been stabbed seven times, I've been stabbed through the heart with an icepick, I've been hit through the brain with a claw-hammer, I've been stabbed in the back of the neck, I've been shot once, run over twice. I don't think you'd need to be terribly mentally disturbed to start getting the funny feeling that people didn't like you." - Marc "Chopper" Read.
Andrew Dominik's impressive debut is a fasinating look at the life of the strangely charismatic violent Australian criminal Marc "Chopper" Read. And it's most probably the best film to emerge from that country since Romper Stomper.
It's violent, disturbing and funny which is always an effective combination. The film begins with the words "This film is a dramatisation in which narrative liberties have been taken. It is not a biography." Dominik states that those words were placed there because of concerns that the flick might have offended Chopper and stating that some poetic license might have been taken was simply a way of avoiding this. This is what Chopper himself states about that disclaimer, "That's a lot of rubbish."
This film is hysterically funny on NUMEROUS occasions all of the way through. The highlight in that regard has to be when a young Chopper, serving a 16 and a half year sentance in a maximum security prison, is betrayed and repeatably stabbed by one of his own prison gang members. He gets stabbed twice (initially!) and doesn't even realise what's going on at first asking "It's a bit early for kung-fu isn't it Jim?" and "What's the matter with you?" before placing his unsmoked roll-up back in his pocket and methodically explaining to his previously loyal mate that if he keeps on stabbing him, he'll die. Chopper himself states that this scene is uncannily close to how this attack occurred.
As for the scene where Chopper gets another inmate to slice off his own ears for him so that he can leave "H block", fucking hell! You get to watch Chopper's fascinating behaviour in both prison and the outside world. His uncontrollable behaviour was the sort that wouldn't keep you out of prison for too long at all! Shooting, hitting and threatening people (albeit all being thoroughly unsympathetic characters) whilst all the time, having to keep a careful eye out for murder attempts on his own life. One fatal shooting scene has two versions of events - the version that was proposed by the police and Chopper's self-defense version, leaving it up to the viewer to determine which one is the truth. Chopper's self defense version was the one accepted by the jury.
The film's colours are treated throughout to produce scenes of interesting and pleasing blue, green and red hues, and there's also some exciting use of high-speed photography in certain sequences such as when folks are snorting cocaine. The soundtrack is excellent too. Eric "Bruce Banner" Bana's performance is a real show stopper, and you only realise just how great that performance really was when you get the opportunity to observe the undoubtably frightening yet curiously likeable and intelligent Chopper Read being interviewed on the disc extras.
The anamorphic print quality is excellent (and this dvd package is far better than you would normally expect from the "Prism Leisure" releasing company) and there's a choice between 5.1 and 2.0 sound. Extras wise, you get two commentary tracks, one from the writer and director Dominik and very pleasingly, one from Chopper Read himself (which adds further detail and explanation of events portrayed in the film). There's cool animated menus, a trailer, 12 minutes of deleted scenes with optional commentary, and over 15
minutes of footage of a (currently free since 1998) Chopper discussing his some of his behaviour, life and perspectives. That footage of the real Marc "Chopper" Read was shot by Dominik on super 8 with Bana present.
According to information over at imdb.com, this "18"certificated UK dvd is the "rated" version and there is an "unrated" cut available from America. Which means that sadly I feel obliged to return this otherwise excellent disc (no restocking charge in the UK) to exchange it for something else, and order the presumably more violent unrated cut of this movie from region 1 land instead. Although that decision of mine will depend on what extras are provided on that unrated cut of the film. So if you're happy enough with the R rated and still violent cut of this great movie, this region 2 disc is very highly recommended to ya.