Australians see Mark Brandon 'Chopper' Read as a celeb crim, an underworld folk hero who writes best-sellers and does the rounds of the television chat shows when he's not serving time. Andrew Dominik, making his feature debut as a director, has adapted Chopper's memoirs with the enthusiastic consent of their author, and reveals him as a psychopathic egomaniac with an explosive and dangerous temper, who is virtually devoid of any moral sense.
Although Eric Bana, better known in Australia as a stand-up comedian, plays him as an engaging villain with a deft talent for grotesque behaviour and caustic one-liners, the background is sad and violent. Prison guards, knowing that trouble is approaching, vacate their posts to enable Chopper to kill the inmate senior to him in the pecking order. Chopper himself is later repeatedly stabbed by his best mate, and beams as each terrible blow punctures his torso. Refused a transfer to a safer prison, he then persuades someone to mutilate his ears, so that he can qualify for a move on medical grounds.
Inside or out, Chopper is paranoid and dangerous. He savagely beats his girl friend (Kate Beahan) and shoots the man he suspects she is having an affair with, then drives him to hospital. Yet he has the Australian media almost genuflecting before him.
The public has a curious fascination for certain career criminals, evidenced recently by the enormous turnout for the funeral of Reggie Kray. Dominik's film simply states this phenomenon as fact, but makes little attempt to analyse it, which is a pity because he is clearly a directorial talent to watch.
Read a review of the DVD.