Romper Stomper

(Geoffrey Wright, Australia, 1992)


On its local release, Romper Stomper ignited a short-lived but passionate public debate as to whether it was a racist or anti-racist tract. The passage of time allows us to judge the qualities (and faults) of Geoffrey Wright's impressive feature debut more clearly.

Set within the skinhead subculture of the Melbourne suburb of Footscray, the film vividly details the disintegration of a gang led by Hando (Russell Crowe) – from bashing up Vietnamese Australians to being picked off like scared animals by the law and aggrieved citizens alike.

The central focus of the film is a violently melodramatic love triangle, involving Gabe (Jacqueline McKenzie) and her shifting intimacies with the bullish Hando and the more sensitive Davey (Daniel Pollock).

If you're looking for a sophisticated commentary on the political complexities of multicultural Australia, Romper Stomper is definitely not it. I suspect that the 'skins' are to writer-director Wright what gangsters or juvenile delinquents are to so many American directors – a flamboyant metaphor for a life lived at the edge of society, and at the dizzy extremes of passion, betrayal and revenge.

Indeed, the film gives the impression of having been made by someone for whom reality is almost entirely defined by the highpoints in movies by Scorsese and Kubrick. But there is no denying the energy and drive that Wright has instilled into his primal, elemental tale.

MORE Wright: Metal Skin, Macbeth

© Adrian Martin June 1993

Film Critic: Adrian Martin
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