Five Reasons Why You Should (Re)Watch ‘Chopper’ Tonight
Even Beethoven had his critics…
Words by Harry Webber October 20, 2021

The time has come.

If you’ve been following our “executive decision” articles – AKA the ones where we recommend a film to watch on hump day – you’ll know we’ve gone through some classic movies from the past few decades. For a while now there’s been one film on the top of our list. The only problem: we couldn’t find Andrew Domink’s 2000 film, Chopper, anywhere. No streaming services, nothing. But low and behold, last week, in celebration of the 20th anniversary, it became available on Amazon and YouTube, which gave everyone in the LWA office mini movie boners.

Based on the life of notorious Melbourne crime figure Mark ‘Chopper’ Read, the film sees Eric Bana masterfully play the cheeky, emotionally stunted, violent sociopath, with such a comedic charm that you forget how much of a monster he is. It follows “Chop” from his time in Pentridge prison where he is serving a sentence for kidnapping a judge, through to his release and self-appointed role as Robin Hood of the criminal underworld.

There aren’t many Australian films that have built a cult following quite like Chopper. Spawning catchphrases, celebrity status for the real Mark Read (who died in 2013), and -I’m calling it here – tattoo inspo for thousands of people around the world, it’s simply iconic. It’s one of those surprise indie movies that got recognised globally, paving the way for the Hollywood career Bana has enjoyed over the last 20 years.

Still need more convincing? Really?! Check out five reasons why you should (re)watch Chopper below:

The laughs.

There’s undoubtedly a tremendous amount of fucked up violence in this film, but the way absurdist jokes and behaviour are interwoven throughout, it’s hard to think of it as a comedy. The Keithy George interaction, where a recently stabbed Keithy is lying in a pool of blood, is the perfect example of how Dominik and Bana make us look beyond the gorey savagery and giggle like children.

Birth of a myth.

While he was a well-known figure by Victorians beforehand, this film put Chopper up there with Ned Kelly in the Aussie murderer-larrikin hall of fame. More books, art shows, and TV appearances followed for the real Mark Read after the movie, and he was always something of a let-down when compared to Bana’s exaggerated portrayal. While all that stuff will be buried by a YouTube algorithm one day, the fictional Chopper will live on forever.

A transformative Eric Bana.

Sure. Going from the bulked-up prisoner to overweight blowout is impressive, but watching Eric Bana – a guy who was known only for sketch comedy at the time – embody the constantly splitting personalities of Chopper is mind-blowing. We see him go from chummy to irate, or violent to whimpering, in a matter of seconds with Bana showcasing some serious mental gymnastics.

Mick Harvey with the theme.

If you’re gonna make a film set in Melbourne in the 90s, there’s probably no one better than former Bad Seed and the genius behind early Nick Cave work, Mick Harvey, right? Without sounding too much like I just ripped a million bongs, I think this song does embody everything the movie is about: dark, playful, eerie and ethereal at the same time:

Editing and grading.

Boring! I get it. But there are so many little movie nerd things to love about Chopper, such as the way the start of the film is green and sterile, then it shifts into reds and yellows following Chopper’s release. Plus the sped-up scenes after he has a line of coke at Neville Bartos’ pad are awesome. All this stuff that we barely notice subconsciously contributes to this being one of Australia’s best movies. EVER.

Editors Pick