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[Short Reviews]

CHOPPER

By the time Chopper begins, the title thug is already a celebrity watching himself on TV from the comfort of his prison cell. Why should we watch him as well? Based on a true story, this rough-around-the-edges feature from Australian director Andrew Dominik never answers that question. Played with stolid charisma by Eric Bana, Mark " Chopper " Read is incorrigible and indestructible. In fact, for the most part it seems heís the choppee, not the chopper, as when a cellmate repeatedly stabs him with a shiv and Chopper just stands there looking vaguely offended.

Chopperís not the brightest guy in the world, but the lowlifes, killers, and druggies he deals with are a step lower down the evolutionary chain, and itís by offing them that he builds his legend of being a kind of criminal vigilante. A much bigger success at public relations than as a public menace, Chopper puts out a bestseller and becomes a star. The movie, though, is a muddle with attitude. Its chronology is skewed with little purpose, and its play with reality and myth is self-conscious and trite: itís Pulp Fiction without the fiction. Although Banaís bravura performance holds it together and some mordantly hilarious set pieces stand out, Chopper is hip hack work.

By Peter Keough

Issue Date: May 3-10, 2001