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|Directed by||Andrew Dominik|
|Produced by||Michele Bennett|
|Screenplay by||Andrew Dominik|
|Story by||Mark "Chopper" Read|
|Music by||Mick Harvey|
|Edited by||Ken Sallows|
|Distributed by||Mushroom Pictures|
|Box office||$3.9 million|
Chopper is a 2000 Australian crime drama film written and directed by Andrew Dominik, in his feature directorial debut, based on the autobiographical books by criminal turned author Mark "Chopper" Read. The film stars Eric Bana as the title character and co-stars Vince Colosimo, Simon Lyndon, Kate Beahan and David Field. The film follows Read's life and time in prison. The film grossed $3.9 million worldwide and received positive reviews. It has since garnered a cult following.
The film opens with two correctional officers and Mark Brandon "Chopper" Read watching an interview of Mark on TV in a prison cell.
The scene then cuts to H Division, Pentridge Prison, Victoria, Australia, 1978. Mark is placed into a room with other cellmates, including an external group that uses the other half of the room. The man in charge, Keithy George (David Field) whistles to Mark, stating that the line placed in the center of the yard is used to separate the groups and tells him to “stay on that side and we’ll stay over here”. After a brief verbal spat between Keithy and Mark, the scene cuts to Jimmy Loughnan (Simon Lyndon), Bluey Barnes (Daniel Wyllie) and Mark in their cells. Jimmy exclaims that Keithy's in the Painters and Dockers, to which Mark replies that in prison, he's just “another bare bum in the shower.” Jimmy questions why they've been fighting with them for the past 3 years, to which Mark replies he doesn’t know. Jimmy states that there has to be a reason, to which Mark replies "We'll make one".
The next day, Mark enters the room and glances over to Keithy, rushing over towards him and horrifically stabbing him multiple times in the face and neck. In his anger, Mark paces off and proceeds to process his actions. Bluey calls out to the correctional officers; all the while Mark rolls Keithy a cigarette and tells him that it’s going to be okay. After another brief verbal spat, Mark states that he's the one who runs the division. Correctional officers soon enter the room and drag Keithy out for medical treatment. Mark walks over to Bluey and Jimmy on the other side of the room, who are angered by what happened, knowing that there'll be consequences.
The day following the attack, Mark is summoned to meet with two detectives; Detective Senior Sergeant Creswell (Caleb Cluff) and Detective Sergeant Wyatt (Hilton Henderson) from the Prison Liaison Office, who are investigating the attack on Keithy. Mark states that no one in the room had any idea of who attacked him. Creswell informs Mark that Keithy died that morning of exsanguination. Mark, Bluey, and Jimmy are seen in their cells, exclaiming that the Painters and Dockers will soon want to have Mark killed for killing one of their members. Mark is then met with Governor Beasley (Fred Barker), who informs him that there's a rumor that the Painters and Dockers have placed a contract on him worth $10,000. In his paranoia and effort to maintain dominance, Mark soon devises a plan to kidnap two correctional officers, lead a siege on H Division and cripple most of the inhabitants, in response to the newly created contract. Bluey and Jimmy attempt to break away from the plan, knowing that it would be a suicide mission. Mark reminds Jimmy of what he’s done for him in the past and reminds Bluey of the first time that he met him, sulking and crying in a corner. They are intimidated into agreeing.
Whilst pacing back and forth in their cell, Mark, Jimmy and Bluey discuss who will be participating in the riot. Suddenly, Jimmy seemingly punches Mark’s stomach twice, before walking back a few steps while Bluey anxiously moving into the corner of the cell behind Jimmy. Mark looks down and discovers that Jimmy has shanked him twice, and then twice more, while Mark stands still in awe. Jimmy soon tears up and apologizes for doing so, but stabs him twice more before Mark pins him up against the cell wall. Jimmy is disarmed and Mark removes his own clothes, revealing that he's covered in blood. Mark begins to lose blood, collapsing onto the ground, struggling to remain conscious. Jimmy rolls him a cigarette and they call out for the correctional officers, but not before Jimmy slashes his own arm to claim self-defense.
Mark soon awakens to Creswell and Wyatt informing him that Jimmy has made a statement against him. Mark recovers and is returned to a separate cell from Bluey and Jimmy. Mark, Jimmy and Bluey exchange words over the walls about the future court case between Jimmy and Mark. The scene then turns to the court case, where it's revealed that Mark is serving a 16 ½ year sentence for the attempted abduction of a judge in order to give Jimmy Loughnan freedom. Back at the Prison, Mark’s picture is all over the newspapers and Jimmy is visibly annoyed by this, Mark’s celebration is cut short when members of H Division soon display their hatred for Mark over the Prison's walls. Mark meets with Governor Beasley and other members of the Prison Board, attempting to negotiate a change of Prisons for security, which becomes unsuccessful. In response, Mark has a member of H Division cut his ears off to relocate to the mental health wing, in which he's successful in doing, and serves out the remainder of his sentence.
In 1986, Mark is out of prison and reunites with an old girlfriend of his. The two spend the night drinking, taking heroin and having sex. Later on, Mark visits his father Keith Read. The two have a beer together and discuss Jimmy Loughnan, who's apparently at large. Mark and Tanya later go to a club and share a few drinks, they soon run into Neville Bartos (Vince Colosimo), flaunting his wealth. Mark apologizes for the leg injury he had inflicted on Neville. Mark overthinks the situation and confronts Neville about the injury. Later at the club, Mark runs into Sammy the Turk (Serge Liistro), and accuses Tanya of flirting with him. Mark flies into a rage at this, and forcefully takes Tanya out of the club. On the way out, Neville makes an arrogant grin towards the pair leaving, to which Mark responds with revealing and firing a handgun off in the club multiple times. Outside of Tanya’s house, Mark apologizes for the evening and discusses moving away to Tasmania. Tanya laughs it off, infuriating Mark, who then accuses her of cheating. Tanya then heads inside, to which Mark heads inside soon after her. In the house, Mark catches Tanya on the phone with Neville and responds by physically abusing both her and her mother (Pam Western). Mark then storms out of the house.
Mark meets with Detective Downie (Bill Young) and Detective Cooney (Peter Hardy) at a bar, feeling ashamed that he’s letting them down. Not knowing what he’s talking about, informing Mark that they don’t condone his “poetic justice”. Mark grins, salutes and unabashedly confirms that he understands perfectly what they mean. Mark later goes to Neville’s house; an angry and disgruntled Neville reluctantly lets him in. During the tour of the house, Neville feeds his dogs cocaine. In the house, Mark enjoys free alcohol and cocaine. It’s revealed that Neville is supplying most of the western suburbs of Melbourne, upon learning this, Mark begins to pressure Neville for money, insisting that he owes him. He then begins to count to 20. After ignoring Mark's threats to produce cash, Mark shoots Neville once in the abdomen. Neville's friends Robbo (Sam Houli) and Nick (Robert Rabiah), with Mark's help, take Neville to the hospital. In the background, Downie and Cooney are questioning Mark over the shooting of Neville and rumors of him having arrangements with the police force to execute criminals with impunity, and it’s also revealed that there's a contract out on him for an unknown amount.
Later, Mark heads to Jimmy Loughnan’s apartment. After a brief frisking for weaponry, he is allowed to enter. He also shares the apartment with his pregnant fiancée, Mandy (Skye Wansey), and their young daughter (Annalise Emtsis). The pair are addicted to heroin and are in financial hardship. Jimmy and Mark begin to talk. Mark asks Jimmy if he’s employed and how much heroin he uses. After a few sarcastic remarks, Mark reveals that he’s working for the police, stating that he has a green light to shoot criminals and that he shot Neville. Mark realizes that Jimmy knows Neville. Mark then tells Jimmy that he heard about the contracts and that Jimmy was meant to do them, and then holds a gun to Jimmy’s head. Jimmy begs Mark not to shoot him while his kids are here. After he apologizes and gives money to Jimmy, Mark leaves. Jimmy then calls Neville, informing him that Mark is going to the Bojangles Club.
After a brief phone call, Mark then runs into Sammy the Turk again. After a few drinks, Sammy and Mark go into a parking lot outside of Bojangles, Sammy stating he wants to show mark something. After aimlessly standing around for a while, Mark then produces a Sawed-off 410 Shotgun and questions Sammy on why they’re there. After a brief argument, Mark shoots him in the eye, Sammy begins to walk away and collapses. Mandy had witnessed the murder from behind a parked car and informs Jimmy of it. The pair then leave. Later, Mark meets with Downie and Cooney, explaining the shooting of Sammy, but ultimately admitting to killing him, after Sammy supposedly took his handgun. Downie and Cooney soon affirm Mark that he isn’t the one that killed Sammy and that they believe Mark to be a liar, stating that they've picked up the man who committed the murder. Mark then questions the situation, before pulling the shotgun out and placing it on the table. Both Detectives order Mark to put the Shotgun away immediately. Mark then later visits his father, admitting that he killed the man at Bojangles to which Keith replies; “that’s my boy, one in the skull!”.
Mandy Carrol turns crown witness against Mark for the murder of Sammy the Turk. It’s then revealed that Sammy took Mark out to the car park for Jimmy to cash in on the contract against Mark, but unknowingly took him to the wrong car park. Mark then beats the murder charge but is convicted of malicious wounding of Neville Bartos, and is sentenced to 5 years. The scene then turns to the interview that is viewed during the beginning of the film as it's being filmed.
The scene then turns to the present day, with Mark and the two correctional officers watching the interview on TV in Mark's cell. After the interview, Mark has a brief conversation with the officers and they leave the cell. After the door closes, Mark brushes off his trousers, before staring aimlessly at the wall of his prison cell.
- Eric Bana as Mark "Chopper" Read
- Vince Colosimo as Neville Bartos
- Simon Lyndon as Jimmy Loughnan
- David Field as Keithy George
- Kate Beahan as Tanya
- Dan Wyllie as Bluey
- Fletcher Humphrys as Bucky
- Robert Rabiah as Nick
- Brian Mannix as Ian James
- Serge Liistro as Sammy the Turk
- Skye Wansey as Mandy
- Renée Brack as Television Interviewer
- Richard Sutherland as Prison Officer
Read himself suggested that Bana play him, after seeing the actor in the sketch comedy series Full Frontal. Bana spent two days living with Read to help him practice for the role, and many of Read's friends, enemies, and old associates were interviewed. Several of Bana's meetings with Read can be viewed in the DVD Special Features.
The biggest production difficulty was being allowed to use the Pentridge Prison in Coburg, Victoria for the shooting. The prison was being closed down and while the negotiations were underway, the funding for production was delayed. This put off the starting of the shoot. Some extras were hired from former inmates and tattoo parlours.
To show the sterility of the prison and to contrast it with the world that Chopper encounters after leaving prison 16 years later, the production was split into two. The first part, filmed at the H Division of Pentridge Prison, one of the actual prisons that Chopper frequented, was as plain and sterile as could be and all the scenes in the second part, taking place in 1986, were overly coloured to achieve a paranoid and agoraphobic atmosphere called "visual overload" by the director Andrew Dominik. This was attained by lighting, choice of film stock used and colours chosen for set decoration. Part one of the production ran from 3 May until 26 May with part two continuing from 28 June until 21 July 2000. The month long break enabled Bana to put on the extra weight necessary to play the older Read.
Chopper was received with positive reviews. Review-based rating site Rotten Tomatoes gave the film a 72% "Fresh" rating, with its critical consensus stating "Eric Bana's performance as the charming but twisted Chopper is the highlight of this disturbing portrait about Australia's notorious author/criminal."
Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film 3 stars out of 4, praising Bana for his performance, saying, "He has a quality no acting school can teach and few actors can match." Margaret Pomeranz for SBS gave the film four-and-a-half stars out of five, commenting that what Dominik "achieved is extraordinary." David Stratton, in the same review, remarked "there's no doubting the intelligence of Andrew Dominik's direction" and declared Bana's performance as "astonishing."
Read later praised Bana's performance on the 20 to 1 episode Great Aussie Films, where Chopper came 17th.
Awards and nominations
(2000 AFI Awards)
|Best Film||Michele Bennett||Nominated|
|Best Direction||Andrew Dominik||Won|
|Best Adapted Screenplay||Nominated|
|Best Actor||Eric Bana||Won|
|Best Supporting Actor||Simon Lyndon||Won|
|Best Cinematography||Geoffrey Hall||Nominated|
|Best Editing||Ken Sallows||Nominated|
|Best Original Music Score||Mick Harvey||Nominated|
|Best Production Design||Paddy Reardon||Nominated|
|BIFA Award||Best Foreign Independent Film||Andrew Dominik||Nominated|
|Cognac Police Film Festival||Critics Award||Won|
|Grand Prix Award||Won|
|FCCA Awards||Best Film||Michele Bennett||Won|
|Best Director||Andrew Dominik||Won|
|Best Male Actor||Eric Bana||Won|
|Best Male Supporting Actor||Simon Lyndon||Won|
|Best Female Supporting Actor||Kate Beahan||Nominated|
|Best Cinematography||Geoffrey Hall||Nominated|
|Best Editing||Ken Sallows||Nominated|
|Best Music Score||Mick Harvey||Nominated|
|Inside Film Awards||Best Independent New Filmmaker||Andrew Dominik||Won|
|Best Actor||Eric Bana||Won|
|Stockholm International Film Festival||Bronze Horse Award||Andrew Dominik||Nominated|
|Best Actor||Eric Bana||Won|
- "Don't Fence Me In" – Frankie Laine
- "Black and Blue" – Chain
- "Sweet Love" – Renee Geyer
- "Bad Boy for Love" and "Stuck on You" – Rose Tattoo
- "Forever Now" – Cold Chisel
- "Release the Bats" – The Birthday Party
- "Senile Dementia" – The Saints
- "Ever Lovin' Man" – The Loved Ones
- Chopper at Box Office Mojo
- "CHOPPER (18)". British Board of Film Classification. 21 July 2000. Retrieved 28 February 2019.
- "Chopper (2000) – Financial Information". The Numbers. Retrieved 28 February 2019.
- Stratton, David (7 August 2000). "Chopper". Variety. Retrieved 27 April 2019.
- Goldsmith, Ben; Lealand, Geoffrey (2010). Directory of world cinema - Australia and New Zealand. Intellect Books. pp. 141–143. ISBN 9781841503738.
- Gila-Bunther, Gaby (September 2000). "Chopper". Senses of Cinema. Retrieved 27 April 2019.
- "Chopper". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 7 June 2009.
- Roger Ebert. "Chopper". Chicago Sun-Times.
- Pomeranz, Margaret. "Chopper (review)". SBS. Retrieved 14 February 2013.