Chopper (2000)

(On DVD, July 2003) Coming straight from Australia, this docu-fictive account of the life of criminal Mark Brandon “Chopper” Read is stuffed with interesting moments, but you’ll have to work hard at understanding anything. Hey, I think Australia’s a great nation filled with cool people, but when I can’t understand anything at all in a movie that doesn’t even feature subtitles (those insensitive DVD-making clods!), I’m not particularly interested in following the film. Fortunately, the French-language audio track was more intelligible. While the film lost something in translation, it was still better than to try to decipher the thick Australian street-talk. Yes, Chopper is obviously a low-budget film: the lengthy shots, grainy film stock, oversaturated colours, static camera and sparse sets aren’t just a stylistic choice. I suppose that the target audience of the film already knows “Chopper”, because the film presents important clues about his achievements in what is almost a casual fashion; pieces are missing here and there, and there’s no making-of on the disc to help us figure it out. It is, indeed, a fictional representation of a real person. In any case, the real winner of the film is Eric Bana, whose representation of “Chopper” runs a fine line between jovial innocence and hard-edged brutality. Frightening and charismatic at once, it’s easy to see why he was hired for The Hulk after this film. (The irony, though, is that he deliver a better performance as a “Hulk” here than in the latter film.) The film does features quite a few clever moments, but not quite nearly enough to compensate for its uneven quality. As mentioned, the Canadian Alliance-Atlantis DVD contains no special features worth mentioning and no subtitles, but it does sport a more intelligible French-language track.

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