First off, if racial insensitivity is an issue with you, you might want to step aside and let Romper Stomper pass without so much as a wink and a nod; this is a film about skinheads living in Australia. And yes, that comes with all that that entails; the racial hatred, the all-out attacks on what they’ve deemed the lesser races, and yes, plenty of violence. So again, if that sounds like something you would be uncomfortable with, you will probably be uncomfortable watching Romper Stomper. Hell, the standout character is the leader of the skinhead gang, their idol and general, and he’s played by Russell Crowe, so this film really toes the line with trying to get you to sympathize with some very unsympathetic characters. That’s not to say this isn’t an interesting watch, however.
Russell Crowe, in his breakout performance, plays Hando, the leader of a small group of Neo-Nazis in one of the smaller cities in Australia. His second-hand man is Davey, and the film wants you to know who these two characters are, as it freeze-frames and labels their faces to introduce them to us. The film spends a few days with the gang, as they terrorize some local Asian foreigners, and said foreigners come back for revenge, all while the gang surreptitiously meets up with Gabrielle, a young woman who quickly becomes the possession of Hando, and the object of Davey’s lingering fantasies. If you think the film will delve into this budding love triangle and mine that story aspect for all it’s worth, you wouldn’t be totally incorrect, but you would be mostly wrong. Romper Stomper is far too concerned with the gang’s activities for the majority of its running time, and it is only in the last half hour or so that the triangle comes into play, and really only because all the other characters in the film are no longer there, for varying reasons. As for the technicals, I’ll start with the color scheme. This film is blue. Like, really blue. If the frame itself isn’t tinted blue, there’s something blue in the frame to make up for it. It wasn’t totally blue all the time, so it wasn’t fully annoying, but I do tend to dislike it when films look like they’ve dipped the negative in paint. Also, there’s an extended sequence in the middle where the Asians gang up themselves and go hunt down Hando and his gang for a previous attack, and a big long brawl and foot-chase breaks out. I couldn’t tell you if this was well-choreographed or not, since there was a little too much shakycam in these sequences; yet another thing that tends to get on my nerves.
So, with all these things that completely get under my skin, why doesn’t Romper Stomper get a negative rating from me? Frankly, it was pretty damn entertaining to watch, and I will all but completely attribute this to Russel Crowe’s performance. He is utterly magnetic whenever he appears on screen, and though his character is despicable in just about every way, you can’t help but miss him whenever he is not in frame; that’s how above and beyond the rest of the cast he was. I can see how this was the performance that made him an initial star. Really, if I were to tell you to see Romper Stomper, it would be because of Crowe, but this is a pretty well made film all around, so it’s worth your attention for that at least. Even with the repugnant content, I still managed to like it, so who knows; maybe you will too.
Arbitrary Rating: 7/10