Top positive review
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explosive film that compels attention
on 26 October 2016
Eric Bana is brilliant as Mark 'Chopper' Read, Australia's most notorious criminal turned bestseller author, and the whole film by Andrew Dominik is shot in a very knife-edge way, veering from the most repellent violence in the first half-hour set against the austerity of a high security prison, to the lurid colours of what is shown after his release in 1986. This second section has a compelling quality that has to do with this murky visual intensity, where the low-budget feel adds to the effect. Chopper himself is shown as borderline psychotic, charismatic, sometimes comical, a man who seems surprised sometimes by his own violent reactions, which take over out of his confusion, or instinct. The notion of friendship in the film is impossible to fathom - there seems to be some genuine feeling, then the next minute they are pointing guns at each others heads; you never quite know where it is going next. The humour is effective, some of the dialogues even sounding a bit like John Cassavetes in their crazy riffs, and Bana is superbly edgy, even a bit sexy in his bulked up form, but the bloodletting really is grotesque. He looks as though he has already transformed into a negative 'Hulk', but in fact it is hard to believe it's the same actor ... Other performances by Simon Lyndon as his childhood friend who leads an assassination attempt against him, and Kate Beahan as an ex-girlfriend, stand out among many vivid supporting roles - but it is not for the squeamish. However it would be hard to see it as showing violence as anything other than misguided.