Romper Stomper

This pumping powerhouse from Australian writer-director Geoffrey Wright concerns skinheads, a subculture of illiterate, unemployed neo-Nazis who'd bash your skull in for a lark, especially if you're an Asian immigrant infringing on their Melbourne turf. The skinhead phenomenon is widespread. As this film shows, you can mock them, but you can't laugh the buggers off.

Gabe (Jacqueline McKenzie) is a rich girl from the suburbs who falls for the sexy, muscular head skinhead, Hando (Russell Crowe). To Gabe, he's a big improvement over Daddy, who's been diddling her since childhood. Crowe makes a mesmerizing monster (he won Australia's Oscar for Best Actor), but Hando's a nutso. Gabe turns to the gentler Davey (Daniel Pollock, a fine actor who recently committed suicide), and Wright holds out a glimmer of hope for their redemption.

Although the love story doesn't ring true, the violence does, as the Vietnamese community fights back. Few movies have shoved an audience so brutally into battle. Ron Hagen's camera work captures the delirium of carnage that drives out rational thought. Ignore the prudes who think you shouldn't make films about things that scare you. It's a first line of defense. This Aussie Reservoir Dogs opens up a brutal world that needs to be understood.

From The Archives Issue 78: March 18, 1971