Crime and Predictability.
Ugh, do I really have to do this? Australia, of all places, makes a film about a legendary celebrity criminal, and I’m left sifting through a pile of stock penal colony jokes like a Tonight Show With Jay Leno staff writer. They’re just laying there, tempting me, waiting to be taken like an apple pie on a window sill, or an unwatched toddler at Marine Land. And, like the toddler, I’d like nothing more than to take the joke, have my way with it, and drown it in the sea otter tank. But there’s no sense of victory, no rush of adrenaline with a joke/child murder like that. It’s just too easy, so I’ll take the high road, leave it be, and let the irony speak for itself.
Chopper is about Mark Brandon Read, a notorious underworld figure in Australia with a rakish charm and infectious sense of humour, kind of like if Crocodile Dundee killed people. Which, incidentally, he did. Read is played by the always excellent Eric Bana, an Aussie sketch comedian who has turned into a veritable chameleon as an actor, in that he eats insects and his eyes can move independently of each other. Sorry about that. I got so into the formula writing after the Australian criminal jokes I forgot not to use tired, predictable metaphors. What I was trying to say is that Bana changes completely from role to role, be it as a fat, tattooed lunkhead in Chopper, an Israeli assassin in Munich¸ or incredibly boring in Hulk. Here, he is completely unrecognizable, and turns in a fine role as the guiltily likeable Read.
The film is low-budget, but thoroughly entertaining. And though it threatens to be forgettable, an interesting subtext about celebrity and the power of urban myth, coupled with Bana’s performance, hold it all together in the end. Even if Chopper is the best the Australian film industry can do while on a day pass from the Goulburn Correctional Centre, they’ve certainly done something to be proud of.