Director Andrew Dominik had been helming music videos since the early 1990s but had been working on a script about Australia’s most infamous criminal Mark Brandon Read who had best could be described as unstable but at worst insanely violent. With a reputation for extreme brutality he was a one man crime wave robbing drug dealers torturing them when they failed to give him money, It’s little surprise that between the age of 20 and 38 he only spent 13 months outside of prison, His propensity for violence was astonishing – in prison he led a gang that launched hundreds of brutal attacks on other prisoners. It wasn’t just other prisoners who felt the brunt of his brutality as he inflicted it on himself too when he instructed another inmate to cut his ears off which, to no one’s surprise, landed him the prisons mental health wing. He was a liability to himself and others and his own gang tried to kill when he was formulating a plan to cripple every other inmate in the prison. His notoriety was legendary and he wrote a best selling book whilst in prison about his exploits and it was this book that Dominik developed into a script over the course of seven years before finally getting to make his feature film debut with Chopper in 2000.
It was a film not for the fainthearted with some pretty brutal sequences including the cutting off of Chopper’s ears and relayed his story both in prison and also when he was freed where he set about the criminals with violent abandon in the misconstrued belief that he had been sanctioned by the local police as some sort of non-existent undercover operation. Leading a life such as he did its little surprise that Chopper Read is no longer alive and yet it was not at the hands of violent others but instead he passed away aged only 58 from cancer of the liver.
It’s a remarkable film which is wholly dependent on its central performance as played by Eric Bana who, at the time, was best known in Australia at the time as a stand-up comedian. It was an unexpected piece of casting but it was Chopper Read himself who wanted Bana to play the role and Bana and Dominik spent some time with him and the footage of their time together is part of the bonus features on this new release. The real life Read as seen in that footage is clearly someone to be wary around with a disposition that could change for the worse in the blink of an eye. On screen Bana captured it brilliantly in a mesmerizing performance that you can’t take your eyes off and it deservedly won him the Best Actor award from the Film Critic Circle of Australia. The performance caught the eye of several big name directors – Ridley Scott cast him in ‘Black Hawk Down’, Ang Lee cast him in the title role of ‘Hulk’ and Spielberg cast him in ‘Munich’. The film also propelled Dominik to Hollywood where he made the underrated ‘The Assassination of Jesse James by the coward Robert Ford’ that starred Brad Pitt that flopped badly.
Chopper has been newly restored by Second Sight from a 2K graded scan and the new Limited Edition is presented in a rigid slipcase featuring brand new artwork by Nick Charge, complete with a 70-page book featuring new essays. There’s new and archive commentaries and interviews including the director and Chopper himself, as well as composer Mick Harvey and editor Ken Sallows.
The bonus features are as follows:
- New Second Sight Films restoration from a 2K graded scan
- A new audio commentary by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas & Josh Nelson
- Audio commentary with director Andrew Dominik
- Audio commentary with Mark ‘Chopper’ Read
- Stand-up Comedy and Violence: a new interview with Andrew Dominik
- Not Your Typical Composer: a new interview with composer Mick Harvey
- A Tale of Two Halves: a new interview with editor Ken Sallows
- Weekend With Chopper
- Chopper: Behind the Scenes
- Deleted Scenes with optional director’s commentary
Limited Edition Contents
- Rigid slipcase with new artwork by Nick Charge
- 70-page book with new essays by Thomas Caldwell, Sally Christie, Cerise Howard and Joanna McIntyre
- Six collectors’ art cards
Chopper is not one for the faint hearted, the violence is graphic and in your face and even when it is seemingly calm on screen there’s a bubbling undercurrent of rage that threatens to erupt at any moment and yet Chopper is not without its humour albeit with some uneasy laughs. The bonus features are very good especially Dominik’s commentary and a bizarre archive one from Chopper Read himself who revels in Bana’s on screen portrayal of him
Chopper , is one of the plethora of films about real life villains that included Legend (Kray Twins) and Bronson, to more commercial films such as Goodfellas and Black Mass and with this filmed in at times grimy detail it gives the film a sense of authenticity that makes the disc a must for fans of films about real life criminals.
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Here’s the Chopper trailer….
CHOPPER Limited Edition Blu-ray Box Set & Standard Edition Blu-ray arrives 30th October 2023