The first thing you see in Chopper is a disclaimer announcing that this movie is a work of fiction. Based on real-life criminal Mark “Chopper” Reade’s various memoirs, it’s an interesting way to start a biopic- by telling you it’s all fake.
But the further you get into director Andrew Dominik’s debut film, the more you understand the disclaimer: Chopper himself was a mixture of fact and fiction, a charismatic contradiction of congeniality and sociopath who had no problem smiling at you and killing you at the same time. In his mind, whatever yarn he was spinning at any given time was the truth, at least at that particular moment.
Chopper strings you, the viewer, along from one misadventure to the next, constantly surprising you with its protagonist’s erratic and zany ways. Eric Bana’s performance as Chopper is 90% of why you should watch this film- he is completely convincing in the role, simultaneously charming and scaring you as he recreates this infamous Australian legend. The real-life Chopper ended up a famous author (he even wrote a kid’s book) who captured the public’s imagination with his wild tales of the criminal life. Fictional Chopper is no different; though the stories have been changed, the spirit that clearly motivated Dominik to make this film remains.
Dominik turns Chopper into a legit folk hero- or better yet, a folk superhero who survives multiple stabbings and scenarios no real-life human has any right surviving. By doing so, he shoves some questions in our face: right and wrong, fact and fiction… what do we really value as a society? And if we’re so certain about the morality of murder, why do we never seem to tire telling stories about them? Why are we so eager to let Chopper into our lives?
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