It's finally here, probably the most anticipated Russell Crowe review of the 26 days of Russell Crowe, so posting it on Day 4 is almost like shooting myself in the foot, but stick around I promise the remaining 22 days will not disappoint. From Russell Crowe enthusiasts to many critics Romper Stomper is really the only pre-Hollywood film Russell has starred in that seems to garner much of any attention (it's even one of the films on the 1001 Movie Club list). Most of these early films I've never seen (hence the main reason for this marathon of films) and Romper Stomper has always been one I've kinda strayed away from simply because of what I've read and heard about it, plus it's falls into the category of low budget critically acclaimed films that I never seem to like, a la Requeim For A Dream and Magnolia. But I guess there's always an exception to the rule and Romper Stomper might be my exception, or the story is literally such a train-wreck that I couldn't turn myself away, I'm still deciding which.
Romper Stomper is the story of the downfall of a group of Australian skinheads attempting to keep their neighborhood "pure" from the growing threat of Vietnamese immigrants. Hando (Russell Crowe) is the groups leader, Davey (Daniel Pollock) is his best mate, and Gabe (Jacqueline McKenzie) is a drugged out epileptic running from an abusive relationship and a perverted father. Feeling the influx of Vietnamese is degrading their country, the skinheads take every opportunity they have to bash in a few Vietnamese. They really become infuriated when a group of Vietnamese buy their local pub. In initiating their attack they soon discover themselves in quite a pickle as literally 40 Vietnamese come in droves to repay the skinheads for their constant abuse. They are forced to retreat, and ultimately forced out of their hideout as the Vietnamese follow them and burn it to the ground. Now homeless the group is forced to lay low and come up with a plan to get revenge, but revenge never comes as a series of poor decisions and inner strife (due to Hando's growing anger) leads the group to slowly turn on one another.
The first twenty or so minutes of Romper Stomper seemed to confirm my initial reluctance to see this film, as it's opening scenes of violence, vulgarity and lewdness appeared to be rolled up into a package very similar to Requiem For A Dream. It was not until the showdown between the skinheads and the Vietnamese that Romper Stomper had me hooked. Many people say this film is hard to watch, I would disagree, in some ways I actually found the film rather rewarding as for me it was really a story of injustice getting a taste of it's own medicine. Other than the Vietnamese I felt no pity for any of the other characters, they all received there just reward for the acts they were engaged in.
I would assume the director's goal was in someway to make the viewer feel some pity (possibly for Davy who seemed to be straddling a line). But frankly I even found the Vietnamese showdown hilariously entertaining as the skinheads were pumled by dozens of angry Asians, how's that for justice? One interesting thing to note is that Daniel Pollock the actor who played Davy threw himself in front a train following the shooting of this film. He had been involved with Jacqueline McKenzie, who also played his love interest in the film and was a known heroin user, obviously he was a troubled character, making his role in the film not too much of a stretch. Later on Russell Crowe actually wrote a song about Polluck's suicide called The Night That Davy Hit The Train.
Story-wise I think Romper Stomper is a little over hyped, other than the love connection between Gabe and Davy there really isn't a whole lot more to the story other than violence and betrayal, it's really quite a simple story and execution and in comparison to the films Russell has done in the last 5-10 years I doubt I'd be able to place Romper Stomper in the top ten in terms of story. The acting although is pretty good, especially by the main characters, although I don't know how difficult it is to play a man full of rage and hatred, but Russell successfully pulls it off. It's my opinon that his best scene is the final few minutes in the film; the outcome is not surprising but Crowe's performance is rather gripping and makes for an excellent conclusion. I also found it ironic that the film closes with a bunch of Asian (possibly Vietnamese) tourists with their cameras and video cameras, almost having the last laugh in this twisted film that started with the skinheads abusing their race.
Overall, I can say Romper Stomper is at the least an interesting film. Is it worth checking out? Well, I'll leave that to your own choosing, if you're a Russell Crowe enthusiast I would probably say yes, although be warned it's by far Crowe's grittiest and vilest film in terms of language and simple brute violence. Personally I didn't find the film too difficult to watch as some people say, but found it to be more like a train-wreck that I simply couldn't stop from watching. Romper Stomper has it's issues, the beginning is slow and tedious, it's sometimes difficult to grasp exactly what's going on (it was halfway through the film before I realized Davy was Hando's best friend, I thought he was his brother), and the story itself boarders on outlandish at times. But in the end, Romper Stomper is another great example of the range Russell has, and another example of how completely unique every character he takes on is.