[Although this film is 14 years old, I recognize the possibility that many of you haven’t seen it. Therefore, there are some slight spoilers below. ]
As promised in last week’s introduction to this brief series of articles, today I take a look at director Andrew Dominik’s debut film Chopper, which was released in 2000. Based on From The Inside, the autobiography of Mark Brandon Read (aka “Chopper”), the film achieves something quite rare in that it manages to be unflinchingly brutal, warm, and funny in equal measure. A lot of crime films, especially after Pulp Fiction, have aspired to meld tones like this. But most of them have failed, in large measure because of their self-consciousness. Chopper isn’t self-conscious. It doesn’t achieve its alchemy by laying a grouping of desired ingredients out on the table and willing them to collide. The film is one hundred percent the result of an authentic interest in its subject. Dominik is so true to his reading of Read’s life that the film reads as an extension of his personality, not a genre checklist. In particular, there are three moments in the film’s first half that define it as a singular work, and those are what I’ll primarily be focusing on in this piece.