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Theatrical release poster
|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||First Look Pictures|
|Box office||$3.9 million|
Chopper is a 2000 Australian crime drama film written and directed by Andrew Dominik and 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. It has since garnered a cult following.
The film follows Read's life and time in prison. The film grossed $3.9 million worldwide and received positive reviews.
The film opens with two Correctional Officers & Mark Brandon "Chopper" Read watching an interview that was conducted by Renée Brack for the latter being broadcast on a Television set 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 & tells him to; “Stay on that side & we’ll stay over here”. After a brief verbal spat between Keithy & Mark, the scene cuts to Jimmy Loughnan (Simon Lyndon), Bluey Barnes (Daniel Wyllie) & 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 & glances over to Keithy, rushing over towards him & horrifically stabbing him multiple times in the face & neck. In his anger, Mark paces off & proceeds to process his actions. Bluey calls out to the Correctional Officers; all the while Mark rolls Keithy a Cigarette & 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 & drag Keithy George out for medical treatment, Mark walks over to Bluey & 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) & Detective Sergeant Wyatt (Hilton Henderson) from the Prison Liaison Office, who are investigating the attack on Keithy George. Mark states that no one in the room had any idea of who attacked Keithy George. Creswell informs Mark that Keithy died that morning of Exsanguination. Mark, Bluey, & Jimmy are seen in their cells, exclaiming that the Painters & 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 & Dockers have placed a contract on him worth $10,000. In his paranoia & effort to maintain dominance, Mark soon devises a plan to kidnap two Correctional Officers, claim siege to H Division & turn most of the inhabitants into Paraplegics, in response to the newly created contract. Bluey & 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 & reminds Bluey of the first time that he met him, sulking & crying in a corner. Both parties agree due to intimidation.
Whilst pacing back & forth in their cell, Mark, Jimmy & Bluey discuss who will be participating in the Riot for control of H Division. 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 & soon discovers that Jimmy has shanked him twice, asking him what’s gotten into him, to which Jimmy stabs him twice more, all the while Mark standing still in awe. Jimmy soon tears up & apologizes for doing so, & stabs him twice more before Mark pins him up against the cell wall. Jimmy is disarmed & Mark removes his own clothes, revealing a body covered in blood. Mark begins to lose blood & collapses onto the ground, struggling to remain conscious. Jimmy rolls him a cigarette & they call out for the Correctional Officers, but not before Jimmy slashes his own arm to claim self-defense.
Mark soon awakens to Creswell & Wyatt, informing him that Jimmy has made a statement against him. Mark recovers & is returned to a separate cell from Bluey & Jimmy. Mark, Jimmy & Bluey exchange words over the walls about the future court case between Jimmy & 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 & 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 & 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.
The scene then cuts to 1986. Chopper is out of Prison and reunites with an old girlfriend of his, Tanya (Kate Beahan). The two spend the night drinking, ingesting & Injecting Heroin & having sex. Later on, Mark visits his Father, Keith Read (Kenny Graham). The two have a beer together and discuss Jimmy Loughnan, who's apparently at large. Mark & 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 & the latter soon shouts the pair drinks. Mark overthinks the situation & confronts Neville about the injury. Later at the club, Mark runs into Sammy the Turk (Serge Liistro), & accuses Tanya of flirting with him after offering a light for his cigarette, this causes Mark to fly into a rage & forcefully take Tanya out of the club. On the way out, Neville makes an arrogant grin towards the pair leaving, to which Mark responds with revealing & firing a handgun off in the club multiple times. Outside of Tanya’s house, Mark apologizes for the evening & discusses moving away to Tasmania, to which 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 & responds by physically abusing both her & her mother (Pam Western). Mark then storms out of the house.
Mark meets with Detective Downie (Bill Young) & 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 & unabashedly confirms that he understands perfectly what they mean. Mark later goes to Neville’s house; an angry & disgruntled Neville reluctantly lets him in. During the tour of the house, Neville feeds his dogs Cocaine. In the house, Mark enjoys free alcohol & 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. Mark then begins to count to 20. Ignoring Mark's threats to produce cash, Mark shoots him once in the abdomen. Neville's friends Robbo (Sam Houli) & Nick (Robert Rabiah) with Mark's help then proceed to transport Neville to the Hospital. In the background, Downie and Cooney are questioning Mark over the shooting of Neville & 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 allows him to enter. he also shares the apartment with his pregnant fiancée, Mandy (Skye Wansey), & their young Daughter Shazzy (Annalise Emtsis). The pair are plagued with Heroin addiction & are in financial hardship, Jimmy tells Mandy to take Shazzy to bed. After they exit the room, Jimmy & Mark begin to talk. Mark asks Jimmy if he’s employed & 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 conduct shootings on criminals & that he shot Neville. Mark realizes that Jimmy knows Neville. In the background, Mandy re-enters the room, Screaming that they shouldn’t talk about that stuff here. Mark then tells Jimmy that he heard about the contracts & that Jimmy was meant to do them, he then proceeds to put a gun up to Jimmy’s head, begging him not to shoot him while his kids are here, Mandy reinforces that Jimmy looks up to Mark & that he would never kill him. After he apologizes & gives money to Jimmy, Mark leaves the apartment. Jimmy then calls up Neville, informing him that Mark is going to the Bojangles Club & that they’ll meet him there.
After a brief phone call, Mark then runs into Sammy the Turk again. After a few drinks, Sammy & Mark go into a parking lot outside of Bojangles, Mark then produces a Sawed-off 410 Shotgun & questions Sammy on why they’re there. After a brief argument, Mark shoots him in the eye, Sammy begins to walk away & collapses. Mandy had witnessed the murder & tells Jimmy of it. The pair then leave. Later, Mark meets with Downie & Cooney, explaining the shooting of Sammy, changing the story but ultimately admitting to killing him, after Sammy supposedly took his handgun. Downie & Cooney soon affirm Mark that he isn’t the one that killed Sammy & that they believe Mark to be a liar, stating that they've picked up the man who committed the murder. 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, & is sentenced to 5 years. The scene then turns to the interview that is viewed during the beginning of the film but during the filming stage inside the prison.
The scene then turns to the present day, with Mark & the two Correctional Officers watching the interview on TV in Mark's cell. After the interview, Mark has a brief conversation with the Officers & 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
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.
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 Chopper.
Some extras were hired from former inmates and tattoo parlors. Bana spent two days with Chopper to gain an insight into the role he was to play and many of Chopper's friends, enemies and old associates were interviewed.
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 Eric 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 director Andrew Dominik "achieved is extraordinary." David Stratton, in the same review, remarked "there's no doubting the intelligence of Andrew Dominik's direction" and declared Eric Bana's performance as "astonishing."
Reaction from Mark "Chopper" Read
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. Read later praised Bana's performance on the 20 to 1 episode Great Aussie Films, where Chopper came 17th. Several of Bana's meetings with Read can be viewed in the DVD Special Features.
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 & 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 (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.