By Sherrie Li
By Falling James
By Amanda Lewis
By Amy Nicholson
By Amy Nicholson
By Jennifer Swann
By Scott Foundas
By Sherrie Li
Some movies make Australia seem like the last place in the world that any sane person would want to visit. The grotesquely violent, horribly funny film Chopper is one of them. This first feature, written and directed by Andrew Dominik, is loosely based on the books of Mark “Chopper” Read (played by the Australian comic Eric Bana), a real-life career criminal whose insanity can be measured by the bodies he left in his wake — as well as by his own ears, which he had sawed off in prison. Read, who now lives on a farm in Tasmania after spending much of his life in prison, seems to have been cursed with a disorder that made him hurt people for no reason. Or if there is a reason, Dominik isn’t telling. That can be frustrating — why, you wonder, did Read shoot that guy in the leg? — but it leaves the film free of the sort of fusty explanations that are often trotted out as excuse, or rationale. Read was simply nuts, as far as Dominik is concerned, and committed unforgivable atrocities — or at least he said he did.
Whatever the case, there are no real mysteries in Chopper, either in terms of narrative or of Read’s psychology, no excavated childhood horrors, no sociological implications. Instead, there is the surrealism of the man’s life itself, first in a Melbourne prison — where Read and his two mad lackeys go even madder, idling against the bleached white of a cell in which blood, when it pools, looks nearly black — and later during his freedom. Let loose in the world, which seems as painfully inhospitable as jail, Read initially bounces between the sepulchral family manse and wreaking havoc at a neighborhood pub athrob with strobe lights and fear. Then he writes a best-seller, which, in the scheme of things, is probably the last crime he will commit against the world.
Chopper is outlandish in story and style, colored with bilious greens and piss-yellows that perfectly match the nauseating, incredible spectacle at its center, this comedian and nightmare rolled into one thuggish package. In one scene, Read calmly eggs on his jailhouse ear surgeon with “Just get on with it, you fucking fairy!” In another, he screams at a dying man he’s just stabbed, “You are such a show pony!” Both scenes are funny and awful, as physically discomforting to watch as they are absurd. Dominik and Bana manage to make us laugh at Chopper, to find humor in his grotesque behavior, not because the evil he did was a joke but because it was not. If we laugh at the absurdity it’s because life is absurd and, finally, beyond human comprehension. Dead, the chicken will run around without its head; alive, Chopper Read ran amok without a heart.
AMORES PERROS (LOVE’S A BITCH) | Directed and produced by ALEJANDRO GONZÁLEZ IÑÁRRITU | Written by GUILLERMO ARRIAGA Released by Lions Gate Films | Citywide
CHOPPER | Written and directed by ANDREW DOMINIK | Produced by MICHELE BENNETT Released by First Look Pictures | At the Nuart (This is an adults-only booking.)
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