As I previously mentioned, this movie and American History X are the two best movies about skinheads. While the latter deals with a more structuralized skinhead architecture, Romper Stomper shows us the side we usually cannot see. This is the side of an insider in a skinhead group living on the fringes of society, unburdened by any contact with official system of values or authority. Director Geoffrey Wright decided to use an unbiased approach to storytelling, where we can watch events unfold without the social commentary. Actually, large portions of this movie could be viewed as “cool” and a legitimate counter-culture movement. In this sense, Romper Stomper is perhaps a more dangerous movie than American History X because it focuses on characters and their nihilistic behavior, leaving much of the philosophy up to the viewer. However, to call it pro-skinhead would be deeply offensive to everything they tried to do. You simply cannot understand this subject properly if you do not know what’s actually going on and that requires from a movie to show what  motivates people to do these things. Starring young Russell Crowe, who fought like a lion to get this part, and Daniel Pollock, who committed suicide before the movie was released (unfortunately he was battling heroin addiction and depression), the entire cast of this relatively low-budget movie was phenomenal.

Romper Stomper [1992] Movie Review Recommendation PosterIn Footscray, one of the Melbourne suburbs, there’s a gang roaming about. They are a skinhead gang, living outside the society as a group in abandoned buildings, drinking beer and beating up immigrants. Led by ruthless Hando and his second-in-command Davey, they are determined to make Australia something else. They feel that everything around them is being taken over by immigrants and that they are basically left to die in their own country. After they find out that the local bar that they frequent has been sold to a Vietnamese family they start something that will end in blood…

If you’re looking for a movie to bring you up to speed about this whole skinhead thing, this is it. Most of the skinheads nowadays use protests and festivals to make their presence known, with only a handful of them going to the extreme, as Hando’s gang did. It is pretty obvious what’s happening: young and insecure males are looking for a firm system of values that will enable them to gain the respect of their fellow men but also to get self-respect. The whole thing then becomes a standard issue tribal gathering, basically a circle-jerk around a monolith system of values. There’s a ruling structure with the strongest and smartest of them at the helm, guiding them through the treacherous waters of life. The scariest thing about the story is the fact that it’s true. You cannot deny that young men feel empowered when they join a structure like this. Of course, all the conditions in the lives of these young men have to be “right” for them to join such an ideology, but deteriorating conditions in each country and on a global scale provides a relatively big number of potential members.

The second part of this equation is something that some people missed all-together, especially those who are saying that this movie is pro-skinhead. Their actual lives are pretty crappy and they are almost certain to end up either in jail or dead. This is a lousy prospect for any self-respecting man but a relative improvement for those who are suffering either from addiction, abuse or something else. To provide people with a way out from these crappy circumstances is too help them when they are down, but our tribal, capitalistic society says if you can’t take care of yourself, you should be either dead or in jail. So, I’m calling skinheads to not abandon their hatred but to point it in the right direction and get rid of this whole system of values based on the very thing they are trying to fight. This is a self-perpetuating system that will always produce skinheads or other hate-groups who are actually diverting the attention from real problems our society is facing. Objectively, we can measure the impact of immigrants on the economy and it is positive and also, we can measure the impact of skinheads on the economy and it is negative. Their basic premise will never be achieved, but they knew that already, so what’s left is basic tribal organization and characters in their nihilistic downward spiral.

I just had to rant a bit, because this is one those movies that I saw in an awkward period of my life and it had a profound influence on me.

Director: Geoffrey Wright

Cast: Russell Crowe, Daniel Pollock, Jacqueline McKenzie, Christopher McLean

Fun Facts: When smashing the display glass in the mall scene, the actor Daniel Pollock did actually cut himself.

Rating:

IMDb Link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0105275/

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