CHOPPER - DVD review


The world will soon know the name Eric Bana. He has been cast as Bruce Banner in Ang Lee's upcoming "The Hulk" and has a starring role in Ridley Scott's anticipated "Black Hawk Down." Bana is a young comedian who has great physical presence and is a fine character actor. This is the reason he was cast against his normal character to play the violent habitual criminal Mark "Chopper" Read. Bana was chosen by "Chopper" Read to portray the Australian bad boy in this filmed biography.

"Chopper" is an extremely violent film. There is blood galore and the audience is treated to gushing stomach wounds, head wounds and ears being cut off by a friend. As "Chopper" Read states in the audio commentary, unlike in Quentin Tartantino's "Reservoir Dogs," removed ears do not stop bleeding, and the blood never stops in "Chopper." The film covers various events ranging from his prison term and his efforts to control the prison population through sheer violence to his days among the free public and his war on drug lords and those that he does not like. "Chopper" Read is a violent man who has no problem with violence, and if you do have a problem with violence, I'll start out by telling you that this is not a film for you.

As far as entertainment value, "Chopper" is a highly entertaining picture. It covers actual events and actual people. The story takes some fictional liberties by basing fictional characters on multiple true-life people. "Chopper" Read states that the picture is otherwise 95% accurate and one question that quickly comes to mind knowing this is "How is this guy not currently in jail?" The persona that is "Chopper" is a remarkably interesting man and a perfect character to bring to the big screen.

The only problem with "Chopper" is the manner in which the film sometimes jumps around and does not offer exposition on what is going on. One moment, we are witnessing "Chopper" Read being removed from his ears, the next, he is walking free on the streets. No mention of the length of passing time is given and no knowledge of the conditions of his freedom are given. During the later stages of the film, he meets with police officers and discusses some of the bad things he has done during his freedom, yet he does not get placed back in jail. He appears to be an informer of sorts for the police, but nothing solid is explained. It takes a listening to the commentary tracks to get a handle on what is going on in the film. The films jumping around and lack of information could be discouraging to some.

Back to the character and man called "Chopper"; this is not a man you would say is a great man, but he is certainly a great character. He has a love for violence, but is remorseful after he commits a violent act. He has a likable quality and can be charismatic. "Chopper" was a showoff in his younger years, and he enjoyed good humor. This is quite complex for a man who is known for extreme violence and a long history of crime. "Chopper" Read believed that even though you attacked somebody with a knife, you should still be respectful. In one scene, he attacks a competing prisoner, and then apologizes and offers the dying man a cigarette. You would not expect a comedian to be able to step in and bring life to this role. Eric Bana does so with a commanding and overly impressive performance. "Chopper" Read gives Bana props for the performance, and I hope that some Award voters do the same.

Nowadays, "Chopper" Read is a best-selling author and a very free man. He is a very interesting man, but not exactly somebody you want to bring home for dinner. His story is powerful, violent and captivating. The film that tells some of his story is also captivating. It can become frustrating because of the films desire to jump around and not explain all that is going on. There is also the fact that the actors are Australian and what they are saying is not always easy to understand for an American. This is a film I would recommend to a large number of people, but certainly would not recommend to others. It is violent, bloody, funny, thrilling, confusing and intelligent. The acting is solid, the story is top-notch and the directing is solid. Personally, I say go for it and check "Chopper" out.

Image Entertainment has wisely chosen to release "Chopper" in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in a good-looking anamorphic transfer. The cinematography of "Chopper" is done very stylish. Different scenes are saturated with different hues to help set mood and tone. Certain scenes are overly strong in greens or blues, while others in warmer reds. Film grain is also introduced, but then again, most of the time, this was an artistic choice and not a purpose of the transfer. Spread over two layers, the video is sharp and clean. Digital artifacts and jagged edges are nearly invisible. Colors are presented nicely, though contrast is intended to be off. The picture looks very good.

Not only has Image done a great job with the video presentation of "Chopper," but they have provided many audio choices and done them well. For 5.1 multi-channel surround users, the choice between either Dolby Digital or DTS mixes are available. Pro Logic users have the ability to select a Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround soundtrack. The split surrounds are used nicely and stereo separation is excellent. Audio range is very good. Gunshots sound great and bass is strong during them. There is not much in the area of music, and the film is generally dialogue driven. During some club scenes, the audio is good, and any other sound effects are handled rather nicely. The Dolby Digital and DTS mix do not vary much from each other and either one will do the job well.

Though not labeled as a special edition, "Chopper" contains a nice mix of supplements. What makes the supplements very nice is the fact that there is so much involvement by the subject of the film, Mark "Chopper" Read. If you enjoyed the film and wanted to learn more about the peculiar subject, the supplements do what supplements are supposed to, they provide you further information relating to the film. Deleted scenes, commentaries and featurettes are provided to delve into if you are seeking more information.

There are two commentaries provided with "Chopper." The first commentary features director Andrew Dominik and he spends time discussing the picture and the inspiration that led to him wanting to make the picture. He is entertaining and offers lots of good tidbits. The second commentary is Mark "Chopper" Read himself. Read is as much a character on the commentary as the man that is portrayed in the picture. He guides the viewer through the accuracies of the film and his thoughts on the scenes. He also adds additional information to the crimes and to crimes that are not covered in the film. One interesting instance is the fact that because somebody wouldn't let him in the house, "Chopper" burned the house down. He also quotes Harvey Keitel from "Pulp Fiction" and is extremely entertaining through the entire commentary.

The DVD also contains five deleted scenes and a featurette. Most of the scenes are alternate takes or extended scenes. These were generally removed to cut down the running time of the film. These scenes do tend to add more information and none of them stand out as being bad or irrelevant to the picture. The featurette is called a "Weekend with Chopper." This features segments where star Eric Bana and "Chopper" stand around talking. Everything from ears to chickens to beer are covered. This is another supplement that lets you learn more about "Chopper" Read and is certainly worth checking out. The supplements are rounded out with the theatrical trailer.

Even though some of the film was very confusing, I thoroughly enjoyed "Chopper." After revisiting the film with the "Chopper" Read commentary, my appreciation for the film grew stronger. This is a quite interesting man with some extraordinary stories to tell. Eric Bana will soon become a household name and deservedly so. This comedian shows he is a powerful character actor and good things are ahead for him. Image has delivered a top notch DVD. The picture and sound are excellent and the supplements are very fitting and extremely entertaining. Because of the sheer amount of violence, language and abrasive content, this is not a film for all, but if you don't mind any of that, then you want to see what "Chopper" is all about.


Film Value