Plot: What’s it about?
Mark “Chopper” Read (Eric Bana) wants to make a name for himself and whatever it takes to accomplish that, is just what he’ll do. As he serves time in a maximum security institution, Read has become a public figure thanks to his outlandish actions and verbal tendencies, but that isn’t enough for him, not even close. He has some friends in the prison, but they’ve started to question his senseless motives sometimes, especially in regard to another prisoner, one who has strong connections on both the inside & outside worlds. But Read is convinced he needs to cause this other prisoner some problems and gain more control within the jail’s inmates, so he plans an attack that should hospitalize the man. Read walks over to the prisoner and before the guy knows what happened, Read has stabbed him several times and left a massive pool of blood on the floor beneath the victim. Now Read has become more of a presence within the place, but even his own friends now harbor ill will toward him. As the walls close in and the other inmates prepare to revisit Read with the pain, can he manage to survive and continue his criminal escapades?
This is a violent, wild motion picture and while it didn’t cause a lot of noise in theaters, it should have, to be sure. This Australian import is somewhat based on the real life exploits of Mark “Chopper” Read and that makes the events all the more gruesome, although as expected, some dramatic liberties were taken at times. The story is an interesting one and while it is not too deep or complex, the sheer insanity and intensity more than compensate, I think. You’ll see a lot of blood, fights, and general scenes of violence, so the squeamish shouldn’t give Chopper a spin, but all things considered, the blood isn’t too thick here. In addition, the violence is needed in this case and is never pushed further than it should be, though it does get kind of intense at times. But the world of Chopper thrives on that violence and as such, its presence is needed in each case. The direction is solid and keeps things on track, while Eric Bana turns in a superb performance as Read, one which is almost eerie at times and really drives home the impact of the character. This is a memorable, well crafted film and with a nice disc from Image, I’m issuing a very high recommendation indeed.
Although it had to be tough to take on the lead role of Chopper, Eric Bana nails the part and to say his work here is excellent is a vast understatement. All you have to do is view the clips with the real Mark Read from this disc and once you have, you’ll see how dead on and downright uncanny Bana’s performance is. He is able to pull off the offbeat persona of Read to sheer perfection, thanks to a perfect blend of emotion & coldness. I would mention a couple memorable scenes here, but Bana is superb in all of them, so it is hard to isolate just a few. But I do think the scene where his friend stabs him is one of the movie’s best, thanks to Bana’s work and how masterfully he brings the events to life there. You can also see Bana in such films as The Castle, The Nugget, Black Hawk Down, and even his own television series, The Eric Bana Show. The cast also includes Simon Lyndon (The Thin Red Line, Sample People), David Field (Mr. Accident, Two Hands), and Kate Beahan (Strange Planet, Lost Souls).
Video: How does it look?
Chopper is presented in a 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. As expected, the image here shows the film’s low budget roots, but in the end, I think this transfer is more than solid and should please fans. The print has some grain, but not too much and there is minimal wear evident, so the elements are never hampered much. The colors look bright and vivid here, especially when juiced in a few scenes, which look terrific here. No faults to discuss with the contrast either, as black levels look on the mark and detail never slips, even for a second. I commend Image for their work here, as this is one impressive transfer, given the film’s nature & budget.
Audio: How does it sound?
This disc houses both Dolby Digital & DTS 5.1 tracks and while I didn’t expect much, the results are very good indeed. The movie is by no means loaded with audio potential, but what is there is well represented, to be sure. The early scenes within the jail have a ton of echoes and they sound great here, never hard to understand and with a natural texture. I also noticed some nice use of the surrounds in other scenes, to a greater extent than I had expected. The music and dialogue also come through well, so no complaints on those fronts to discuss. The DTS option has a little more spark, but in either case, I think viewers will be more than pleased. This disc also includes a 2.0 surround track, in case you’ll need that.
Supplements: What are the extras?
Image has loaded this disc with cool extras, including two audio commentary tracks to start us off with. The first track is with director Andrew Dominik and while he is quiet at times, he provides some good insight into his approach to the material. He talks about how he crafted the film from such unusual material, as well as other behind the scenes tidbits. The second track is with the real Mark “Chopper” Read and of course, is a unique, surreal experience. Read is a murderer and to hear him chat about his life is strange indeed, perhaps even morbid to some folks. I have to commend the disc’s producers though, as this was a novel idea and since Read is so candid, he really makes the session worth a spin. This disc also includes some videos of the real Mark Read, five deleted scenes, and the film’s theatrical trailer.