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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.
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|
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 and 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 who use the other half of the room. The man in charge “keithy George” (David Field) Whistles to mark, stating that the line placed in the centre 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 is in the Painters and Dockers, to which Mark replies that in here (Prison) he is just “another Bare bum in the shower.” Jimmy questions why they have been fighting with them for past 3 years, to which Mark replies he doesn’t know. Jimmy states that there has to be reason, to which Mark replies “well 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 it’s going to be okay. After another brief verbal spat, Mark states that he is the one who runs the Division. Correctional Officers soon enter the room and drag Keithy George out for medical treatment, Mark walks over to Bluey and Jimmy on the other side of the room, who are in complete dismay but angered by what happened, knowing there will 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 George. Mark states that no one in the room had any idea on who attacked Keithy George. 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 is a rumour that the Painters & 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, claim siege to H Division and turn most of the inhabitants into Paraplegics in response to the newly created contract. Bluey and Jimmy attempt to break away from the plan, knowing 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 he met him, sulking and crying in a corner (Jimmy & Mark could be his only friends within the prison). Both parties agree due to intimidation.
Whilst pacing back and forth in their cell, Mark, Jimmy & Bluey discuss who will participating the Riot for control of H Division. Suddenly, Jimmy punches Mark’s stomach and repeats once more, before walking back a few steps, Bluey anxiously moving into the corner of the cell behind Jimmy. Mark looks down and soon finds out that Jimmy has shanked him twice, asking him what is he doing & what’s gotten into him, to which Jimmy engages once more for two more stabs, all the while Mark standing still in awe. Jimmy soon tears up and apologizes for doing so, and stabs him twice more before Mark pins him up against the cell wall. Jimmy is disarmed and Mark removes his own clothes, revealing a body covered in blood. Mark begins to lose blood and collapses onto the ground, struggling to remain conscious. Jimmy rolls him a smoke and they call out for the Correctional Officers, not before Jimmy slashes him own arm to claim self-defense.
Mark soon awakens to Creswell and Wyatt, informing 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, it is 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 Prisons walls. Mark meets with Governor Beasley and other members of the Prison Board, attempting to negotiate a change of Prisons for security, to 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 is 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 and having sexual intercourse. Later on, Mark visits his Father, Keith Read (Kenny Graham). The two have a beer together and discuss Jimmy Loughnan, who is 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 and the latter soon shouts the pair drinks. Mark overthinks the situation and confronts Neville about the injury. Later still at the club, Mark runs into Sammy the Turk (Serge Liistro), and accuses Tanya of flirting with him after offering a light for his cigarette, this sends Mark into a rage and 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, to which Tanya laughs it off, infuriating Mark and 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 to Neville and physically abuses her and Tanya’s 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 the pair of his dogs Cocaine. In the house, Mark enjoys the 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. Mark then begins to count to 20. Ignoring Marks threats to produce cash, Mark shoots him once in the abdomen. Neville's friends Robbo (Sam Houli) and 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 (which he is denying) rumours of him having arrangements with the police force to execute criminals with impunity, and it’s also revealed there is 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), and their young Daughter Shazzy (Annalise Emtsis). The pair are plagued with Heroin addiction and are in a financial hardship, Jimmy tells Mandy to take Shazzy to bed. After they exit the room, 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 he has a green light to conduct shootings on criminals, and 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 he heard about the contracts and that Jimmy was meant to do them and 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 and that he would never kill him. After an apology and giving money to Jimmy, Mark leaves the apartment. Jimmy then calls up Neville, informing him that Mark is going to the Bojangles Club, and that they’ll meet him there.
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, 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, and tells Jimmy of it. The pair then leave. Later, Mark meets with Downie and Cooney, explaining the shooting of Sammy, changing the story but ultimately admits that he killed 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 liar, stating 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 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 but during the filming stage inside prison.
The scene then turns to the present time, with Mark and the two Correctional Officers watching the interview on TV in Marks 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 into his Prison cells wall.
- 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" ReadEdit
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 nominationsEdit
(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|
- "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.