Never let the truth get in the way of a good yarn
The breakthrough for Eric Bana and writer-director Andrew Dominik, Chopper is a 2000 Australian film about the notorious criminal/thug/bestselling author Mark “Chopper” Read. But make no mistake – as the opening inscription reads, “it is not a biography”. Like Dominik’s Jesse James, his debut deals with a character and his public persona(s). Frequently ambiguous, there are even scenes with alternate versions, realities. Chopper himself is portrayed as unbalanced – often extremely and unnecessarily violent before displaying great sympathy for his victim. But he’s also an ocker, relatable and very funny, especially in contrast to the impassive authorities and two-faced media.
Desaturated yet drenched in colour, the cinematography’s arresting ugliness proves a major asset to distinguish a very low budget feature in an industry struggling to compete with imports. It’s a marvel that it works so well. Meantime, the ‘Dominik’ auteur construction has proven to be one of considerable interest after just three films. “Promising” would diminish the importance of what’s already been done.