Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction, but more often
than not fiction and truth are intertwined randomly to
create a good story. The latter is certainly the case
with the sometimes excessively violent, often funny story
of Mark Chopper Read, notorious criminal,
best-selling author and regular bloke.
CHOPPER opens with a disclaimer stating that the story
is based on fact but that it is a dramatization and that
certain liberties have been taken. A disclaimer like this
sets me up to find out just what in the story is based
on fact and what devices are simply there to generate
dramatic tension. And after having seen the film, I couldnt
tell you. Chopper is such a complex and strange man (or
character) that there is no way to separate what he says
into what is true and what is made up. His actions dont
have logical meanings and his imagination is far too real
(at least to him) to try to understand why. Why he acts
the way he does, why he says the things he says, why he
wants to be a criminal, etc.
But a few points can be clarified. Chopper (Bana) wants
to make a name for himself as a criminal figure. He wants
to be respected and famous. However, he doesnt seem
to want to hurt anybody or make enemies. After receiving
a long sentence for a botched kidnapping attempt, Chopper
tries to take control of Division H, a maximum-security
section of Melbournes Pentridge Prison, by knifing
the current man in command. But after he has punctured
his face and neck many times and the man is left lying
in a puddle of his own blood, Chopper apologizes and offers
him a cigarette. Later, Chopper cuts off his own ears
to be transferred out of Division H, having made enemies
of every inmate including his best mate Jimmy.
And these things haunt him throughout the rest of his
life in the forms of remorse, guilt, paranoia and sensitivity
(he is most sensitive about his ears).
Eight years later, Chopper is released from prison and
by this time seems a merely a simulation of a hardened
criminal. But he is driven by resentment and guilt as
he searches for some amorphous enemy, which anyone can
become, at any time, depending on how Chopper reinvents
his circumstances to fit his needs, continually blending
fact and fiction.
The now-older Chopper seems lost in paranoia and presentation
of his reputation, his body and mind marked with the scars
of (perhaps) too many battles. He quickly finds his way
back into criminal life, only now on the side of the lawhaving
a green light from the police to kill the
criminal scum as he sees fit. Learning of
a contract on his life, Chopper visits best mate Jimmy
and finds him sickly from drugs and a life-long failure.
Jimmy is, however, acting oddly and Chopper, suspecting
something is not quite right between him and Jimmy, quickly
leaves. Later that night in a moment of extreme paranoia,
Chopper kills a minor criminal, Sammy the Turk.
Chopper manages to beat the murder rap, but is sent back
to prison for another offense. In prison he writes Chopper,
a best-selling account of his life and crimes. From the
book Chopper gains the notoriety he has always wanted
as Australias number one hitman, but in the end
Chopper still seems confused, leaving me to ask the question
And I guess Chopper provides the best answer: Never
let the truth get in the way of a good story.
Ed. note: Chopper recently finished writing
a childrens book, but reportedly is having trouble
finding a publisher.