Romper Stomper is a film that was made in Australia, therefore all scenes take place in Australian cities and everyone talks in an accent. The film was directed by Geoffrey Wright, who is not very well known, but has made some good films. Although this film was successful in Australia upon its release, it did not become well known elsewhere until its recent release on DVD. That is where I saw it for the first time, and I was pleasantly surprised.
The film follows a gang of Nazi skinheads that spirals into destruction. The leader of said gang is none other than Russell Crowe, playing a character named Hando. His close friend Davey, played by Daniel Pollock, is something of his underboss, and the gang also features a bunch of rowdy young men and two women. At the beginning of the film, Hando meets a girl named Gabe, who initially hangs out with him, but then gravitates towards Davey, creating jealousy and conflict within the gang.
The acting in this film is actually pretty good, although one begins to wonder if the young hoodlums were really acting. Russell Crowe's performance is subdued and doesn't seem to reflect his more recent highly violent outbursts. Daniel Pollock's performance is even more subdued since he is a strong, silent type. I was really able to empathize with the Davey character, who seemed to realize that there was more to life than hate and made some effort to escape the lifestyle. It should also be noted that Pollock committed suicide right after the completion of this film. I found many of the other characters to be annoying, particularly Gabe and the loud and the younger gang members.
This film is very offensive and violent, since it takes a look at some of the most hateful people on Earth, the modern Nazis. As one might expect, there are a lot of racial conflicts in the film, mostly directed towards the city's Asian population. In one scene, the skinheads attack a small group of Asians, only to have a literal army of Asians come after them and route them out of their hideout. There is a lot of bloodshed along the way, and this is definitely not a pretty and fun film. The film is very disturbing and gory so you have been warned.
The sets used in the film are actually pretty good, mostly taking place in slummy areas of Melbourne. I can believe that a gang of unemployed skinheads could find an abandoned building or warehouse to live in, keeping it stocked with only minimal conveniences. We also see a very nice house owned by Gabe's father, which greatly contrasts most of the locations seen in the rest of the film.
I think that this film, like "American History X", is important because it addresses issues that many people don't like to think about. Racism is still present in the world, although it is clear that only a small minority take their beliefs to the point of violence and even murder. People like those depicted in this film still exist in many cities, committing hate crimes and the like, and they will surely continue to exist.
Overall, I thought this film was worth watching, despite some annoying performances and other things. A lot of the plot seemed to rely on pure shock factor and even seemed to borrow elements from "A Clockwork Orange". I found it hard to sympathize for any of the characters except Davey, who seemed to have a good head despite being misled by his friend. I give it 3 stars since it is a valiant effort, but does not have nearly the same impact as "American History X". If the goal of the film was to make me feel bad about either side of racism, it failed since I ended up feeling little sympathy for either the skinheads or the Asians, who sink to the same level of senseless violence.