Underbelly Files: Chopper

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Underbelly Files: Chopper

Mark ‘Chopper’ Read established a reputation of infamy by becoming one of the most vicious standover men in Australian criminal history. And now he has put his life of crime behind him… sort of. Claiming to have gone straight, he now earns his living by sharing tales of his standover days, as both an author and stand up comic, forcing him to constantly confront the sins of his past, chiefly his relationship with bikie Sydney Collins.

After being released from Pentridge Prison in 1991, Chopper pledges to Margaret, his high school sweetheart turned girlfriend, that he is going straight. He promises to put the Chopper legend behind him and concentrate on just being Mark. They flee Melbourne for Tasmania to live with Chopper’s dad, Keith, and start a new life. However with Melbourne gangster Alphonse Gangitano plotting against him, Tasmanian bikies trying to ensnare him in bikie warfare, constant requests to carry out contract killings and his own father advocating for violent reprisal, Chopper is faced with the reality that while he may have left a life of crime, that life refuses to leave him. This comes to a head when president of the Outlaws gang, Sydney Collins, offers Chopper an invitation to his wedding, with one condition – Chopper pays him $8,000. It’s not so much an invitation as an order. Chopper refuses, but how can he deal with a criminal like Syd and maintain his promise to Margaret? Shortly after, Syd is shot and Chopper is investigated and charged, but Chopper swears he’s innocent. To prove he is rehabilitated and secure his release, he marries new flame Mary Ann and starts a family – but the only woman who could ever look past ‘Chopper’ and see the real Mark is his true love, Margaret.

Intercutting between Chopper’s comedy routine in 2002 and his past in Tasmania, his fixation on Syd only grows. Ever since the shooting, Syd has haunted Chopper’s recollections, but the spectre of Syd is now bleeding into his present, begging the questions: Is this a haunting of resentment? Or is it a sign of a guilty conscience? Did Chopper shoot and later kill Sydney Collins? Or was he framed? The deeper we dig into the embellished retrospects of one of Australia’s most notorious standover men, the further away the truth becomes.

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