ROMPER STOMPER/1992/RUSSELL CROWE

ROMPER STOMPER

1992/Director: Geoffrey Wright/ Writer: Geoffrey Wright
Cast: Russell Crowe, Daniel Pollock, Jacqueline McKenzie, Alex Scott, Leigh Russell, Daniel Wyllie, James McKenna, Eric Mueck, Frank Magree,
Romper Stomper was early on in Russell Crowe’s movie acting career and when I first saw the film on VHS back in the 90’s he had yet to achieve the level of stardom he has since attained. Had I known Crowe already and some of the Hollywood work I have seen of his lately, such as A Beautiful Mind and Cinderella Man I would have thought something like “wow, he really made some wild movies way back then, not like Gladiator at all”. But when I first saw the film I really knew very little of the guy and doubt that I even knew his name, which only added to the intensity of this already riveting drama about angry skinheads in Melbourne Australia. Crowe is simply mesmerizing as Hando, the leader of a band of skinheads who focus their hatred and violent behavior on the local Asian community, and Vietnamese in particular. The film was written and directed by Geoffrey Wright and has a blood pumping soundtrack of instrumental music as well as bombastic skinhead punk rock music. Along with Crowe are Australian actress Jacqueline McKenzie and actor Daniel Pollock, who had played a small role with Crowe in 1991’s Proof, another great independent Australian film.

The film opens up with Hando and his band of neo-Nazi misanthropes intimidating and beating some Vietnamese skateboarders in the train station of a blue collar neighborhood in West Melbourne. The scene quickly set the tone and pace for the rest of the film and there is little let up as the tensions between Hando and his gang and the local Vietnamese escalate as the immigrants seek to find business opportunities in their community. Hando is the dangerous yet charismatic leader of the group and his best mate is Davey, a brooding, thinking type who has a softer nature. He hides his tattoos from his German speaking grandma and collects matchbook covers his father sends him. He seems to have roots the rest of the band lack, including Hando, who reads quotes from Mein Kampf and hurls Italian pasta rather than eat “wop” garbage. The friendship seems solid and deep until Gabe (McKenzie) is introduced into the story as a sexual diversion for Hando. Gabe is really screwed up herself as she is running away from her incestuous father Martin, played well and creepy by Tony Lee.

Gabe is more educated than the thugs she throws herself in with but she falls under the spell of Hando and is even excited by the violence and vandalism the gang dishes out on anybody anything that crosses them. This becomes not more apparent than when it is discovered the local Vietnamese are going to buy the pool hall they hangout in and turn it into a restaurant. The skinheads become immediately enraged and their racial loathing becomes utterly apparent. They go and beat a couple teenagers nearly to death and perhaps would have, if not for the fact one boy who escaped the beating returns with carloads of Vietnamese youth, already fed up with the skinheads, who soon begin to outnumber and over power Hando and his gang. A really great chase and fight sequence develops with great sound effects and film score. In the end the skinheads are driven back to their warehouse hangout and are driven out and it is sacked and burned.

Seeking refuge the gang boot out some squatters from another warehouse and during their time there it is found out that Gabe is an epileptic after she has a seizure. The uncultured and crass skinheds mock her and call her a “spazz” and imitate her seizures and only Davey has any sympathy. It is this incident that drives a wedge between Davy and Hando. Hando kicks Gabe out, both because he is put off by her epilepsy, but also because of her sarcasms about him and the gang botching an easy job the night before, that of robbing her father’s house. Davey tells her to seek him out as soon as she can. She is totally pissed and in the heat of anger calls the cops and tells them where Hando and the gang are hiding and they are the ones responsible for the attack on the Asians and the robbery and assault on her father. The cops show up and the youngest member who waves a fake gun at the cops. Gabe spends the night with Davey (and there as a couple really wild sex scenes in this flick) and when Hando shows up the next day they all flee the police search. Hando kills a convenient store clerk who looks Indian or Pakistani with his bare hands and the three are fugitives for murder now. The film ends with Davey fighting Hando on the beach after Hando tried to choke the life out of her when he finds out she was the one who called the cops. Hando dies violently with the Nazi dagger he loaned Davy the money for earlier in the film.

The movie is brutally powerful and Crowe is chilling as the sociopathic Hando. The acting and direction is excellent from start to finish. The film was shot on 16mm and has a look much older than 1992. Actors Daniel Pollack and Jacqueline McKenzie had an off screen relationship during the filming of the movie. Problem with the relationship as well as Pollock’s attempts to manage his heroin addiction may led to his suicide by jumping in front of a train, shortly before the film was released. The incident was made into a song by Crowe’s rock band at the time 30 Odd feet of Grunts called The Night That Davey Hit the Train.
Below is an MP3 sample of one the catchy Aryan pop classics from the film.

http://ia700600.us.archive.org/8/items/swf-player/player.swf
PULLING ON THE BOOTS

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