dir. Andrew Dominik
Opens Fri June 8
Cinema 21

Chopper is oneof those disorienting films that aligns you with the evil villain, instead of his seemingly innocent victims. Like in Natural Born Killers, you follow around a pathological freak on an entertaining yet seemingly pointless killing and injuring spree--and the whole time you kind of like him.

The film starts out in prison, with Chopper incarcerated on attempted kidnapping charges. He has a longtime rivalry with one of the other inmates, and while Chopper admits that the rivalry has no basis, he still decides to stab the guy in the neck, just to stir up some drama. Because the other inmates are then afraid of Chopper, they take out a contract on him, but Mark/Chopper, as we learn throughout the film, is an unstoppable force.

Chopper's appeal is in his smart, quippy, manipulative nature, his self-promotion, and his quiet hatred of the world around him. Often, he acts like a paranoid cokehead, thinking that everyone's against him, but his fears usually have some basis in reality. Chopper's interactions with others end in fury, but he doesn't lack compassion. For example, after he yells at someone, beats them, or kills them, he shows charming remorse, almost immediately forgivable for his outbursts of violence--so much so that you might even let him into your living room. describes the plot of Chopper as such: "A man who dreams of being remembered as a legendary crime figure, yet he can't seem to get off the path of failure."

This is a flawed description, derived from the fact that this film is based on the memoirs of an actual serial killer, Mark "Chopper" Read. As an aside, I think based-on-a-true-story films are typically flawed because the filmmaker is trying to stay within the confines of the actual story. In this flick, however, they accidentally digress altogether, but the digression is what makes the film enchanting and successful.

While it's probable that the filmmaker expected to depict a hungry-for-fame character, Chopper never comes off this way. A friend of mine even watched the film and said, "That movie wasn't about a serial killer," even though we know that Chopper is one. The attempts at following the true-to-life story fail completely. We see a sliver of Chopper's quest for fame at the beginning and end of the film, but the scenes are not poignant, and they are only a tiny thread of the meat of the story. You become numb to Chopper's killing and beating, as well, because the people Chopper fucks with are so annoying that you might as well beat them yourself.

My interpretation of Chopper is a depiction of the rampant stupidity in the world. People admire Chopper because he's intelligent, driven, and loyal. They want to impress him, but also destroy him, because they are complete losers in comparison. People are driven to obsess about him because he can always outwit them. Chopper, like, really fucks people up.

In fact, after watching this flick on video late at night and falling asleep on the couch, I had a horrible nightmare about Chopper. He was outside my house in a crowd of people, decapitating everyone in sight, and throwing their severed heads into the trash bin. Remembering Chopper's tendency for mercy, I begged him not to behead me, and thank the lord he didn't. (Aren't you supposed to die in real life if you die in your dreams?) Then I sat down at the table and smoked a big bowl. So I guess that's sort of how the flick goes; it's mind-invasive and gripping, but when it ends, it's a relief.