ⓘ Romper Stomper
Romper Stomper is a 1992 Australian drama film written and directed by Geoffrey Wright in his feature film directorial debut. The film stars Russell Crowe, Daniel Pollock, Jacqueline McKenzie and Tony Lee. The film tells the story of the exploits and downfall of a neo-Nazi group in blue-collar suburban Melbourne. The film was released on 12 November 1992.
A gang of violent young neo-Nazi skinheads from Footscray, Victoria, Australia attack three Vietnamese Australian teenagers in a tunnel at Footscray Station, brutally beating two of them. The gang is led by Hando, a violent, reckless, and unpredictable psychopath with strong white nationalist beliefs and homicidal tendencies, with his friend and second-in-command, the quiet, reserved, but similarly violent Davey. At their local pub, Hando and Davey meet Gabrielle, a drug addict who suffers from random seizures, the day after her sexually abusive, affluent father Martin has her junkie boyfriend arrested. Gabrielle begins a romantic relationship with Hando, which, despite a strong start, quickly becomes dysfunctional as he becomes increasingly abusive towards her.
After the gang vandalizes a shopping mall, friends of the gang visit from Canberra; one of whom has joined the Royal Australian Navy. A party at the warehouse follows, the next day two boys go to the pub, which has just been sold to a Vietnamese businessman by the owner. Upon seeing the new owner and his sons, they inform Hando, who arrives with his gang, and they savagely beat two of the new owners sons, while the third son escapes and calls for help. Fed up with the gangs antagonism and violence, a large mob of armed and angry Vietnamese men, led by Tiger, arrive and descend upon the skinheads. The Vietnamese outnumber the skinheads by droves, and in the ensuing brawl and chase, several skinheads are beaten by the angry mob, among them Magoo, Luke, Champ, and Brent. The rest of the gang is chased back to their rented warehouse, from which they narrowly escape as the Vietnamese mob breaks in and ransacks the building before burning it down.
The skinheads soon find a new base at a nearby warehouse, after evicting a pair of squatters, and plan retaliation against the Vietnamese. When the gang agrees to acquire firearms, two female friends of the gang depart in disgust. Gabrielle suggests the gang burgle her fathers mansion for the guns. After beating and tying up Martin, the gang ransacks the house, smashes one of his cars, and raids his wine collection. The youngest skinhead, Bubs, steals a deactivated revolver from the house during the burglary. Gabrielle tells Martin the burglary is revenge for his years of abuse, then reveals to Davey her plan to take Hando away from his violent life. Martin eventually frees himself and uses a handgun to scare away the gang, who flee in the trashed vehicle and leave behind most of the stolen goods. Due to this incident, Davey begins to question his violent lifestyle.
Agitated by Gabrielles criticism of the poor outcome of the robbery and their living conditions, Hando abruptly hits, berates, dumps, and then evicts her. Davey, unable to tolerate the excess violence and Handos cruel and unpredictable nature any further, declares his departure from the gang and gives Gabrielle his German grandmothers address, where he will be staying. Gabrielle informs the police of the gangs location and spends the night with Davey, where they confess their feelings for each other. Davey also reveals his doubts about his violent lifestyle to Gabrielle, having removed the racist patches from his flight jacket out of concern for his grandmother.
The morning after, the police raid the warehouse where the skinhead gang is hiding. Bubs is shot in the head after pointing the stolen deactivated gun at the police, and what remains of the gang is beaten and arrested. Hando, who was returning to the warehouse and fled when he spotted the police, successfully evades capture as the last remaining member of his gang.
Arriving at Daveys granny-flat, Hando finds his friend in bed with Gabrielle. Hando accuses her of informing the police, but Davey says they were together the whole time since leaving the squat. Hando convinces Davey and Gabrielle to come with him by claiming the police will soon raid the residence, and the trio go on the run. They rob a service station, where Hando strangles the Asian attendant to death; and, after driving all night, they stop at a beach the next morning. There, Gabrielle overhears a conversation wherein Hando tries to convince Davey to abandon her. Feeling betrayed, Gabrielle sets their car on fire and admits to tipping the police off about the gangs whereabouts. Hando, infuriated beyond sense, immediately attacks her and attempts to asphyxiate her multiple times, first by strangling her and then by drowning her in the surf. Davey attempts to fight Hando several times and successfully disrupts each attempt on Gabrielles life, but he is quickly fought off and beaten down each time. Eventually, Hando attempts to smother Gabrielle in the sand, and Davey, desperate to save Gabrielle, stabs Hando in the neck with his Hitler Youth knife, who staggers away before finally collapsing. As a busload of Japanese tourists looks on, a weeping Davey attempts to comfort a petrified Gabrielle as Handos bloody corpse gazes lifelessly out at the ocean.
- Frank Magree as Brent
- Tony Lee as Tiger
- Christopher McLean as Luke
- Jacqueline McKenzie as Gabrielle
- Leigh Russell as Sonny Jim
- Alex Scott as Martin
- James McKenna as Bubs
- Russell Crowe as Hando
- Eric Mueck as Champ
- John Brumpton as Magoo
- Daniel Pollock as Davey
- Dan Wyllie as Cackles
Geoffrey Wrights script was inspired by the highly publicised crimes of leading Melbourne Neo-Nazi skinhead Dane Sweetman. Wright contacted Sweetman via mail in 1991, to request an interview. Sweetman was at that time in the process of serving a life sentence in Pentridge Prison for murder. The interview could not be arranged in a timely manner due to prison regulations, so the two men commenced correspondence, and Sweetman furnished Wright with a transcript of his murder trial, from which Wright drew influence. This influence is most clearly seen in the line delivered by Hando when scaring off squatters from the warehouse: "Ill chop your legs off". It is a direct reference to Sweetmans having cut off the legs of his victim.
That was one of many aspects of the film that mirrored Sweetmans life. A further example is the characters Gabrielle, Davey, and the punk girls were all based on associates of Sweetman. Sweetmans name was conspicuously absent in the end credits, however. This issue was raised in the Australian media during the publicity phase of promoting the film. Russell Crowe acknowledged the origin of his character during an interview on Tonight Live with Steve Vizard in 1992. Wright has also cited Sweetman as an inspiration on the films characters.
The film was financed by the Australian Film Commission with Film Victoria.
The films score was released by Picture This Records. It included the orchestral music and the energetic punk rock music similar to the Oi! genre recorded by studio musicians.
White Power labels have bootlegged the RAC tracks and released them on a 7" many times since the soundtracks release. In 2011, a Russian WP label released the whole soundtrack on a 12".
The RAC songs are often misattributed to real RAC bands on peer to peer sites, with Skrewdriver being used often. The band is also often called "Master Race" due to Peter Paless German-language monologue in the beginning of "Pulling On the Boots". Some people have also considered the Australian punk band the Bastard Squad to have done the soundtrack, due to the line "Jason from the Bastard Squad" being in the thank you section at the movies end credits. The actual versions of the RAC songs used in the film are earlier versions to what ended up on the commercial CD - most obvious being "Fuhrer Fuhrer", which plays in the scene after Hando is notified about Vietnamese being at the Railway Hotel - Clifford-Whites intonation is slightly different and there are no backing vocals in the chorus.
In 2014, bassist Chris Pettifer was interviewed for Vice Magazine about the soundtrack, in which he expressed his disappointment about how genuine neo-Nazi groups had embraced the Oi! songs.
- "Gabe and Davey"
- "Bubs Dead/Gabe Finds Davey"
- "Night Drive"
- "Fuhrer Fuhrer"
- "On the Beach"
- "Wild Animals 1"
- "At the Mansion"
- "The Smack Song"
- "We Came to Wreck Everything"
- "Tonguey for the Skins/Nightmare for the Hippies"
- "Fourth Reich Fighting Men Reprise"
- "Mein Kampf"
- "Fourth Reich Fighting Men"
- "Wild Animals 2"
- "Lets Break Some Fingers/Brawl Crawl"
- "Skinheads Go Shopping"/"Gabe Sees Swastika"
- "Romper Stomper Theme"
- "The Dead Nazi March"
- "Pulling on the Boots"
4.1. Soundtrack Crew
- Chris Pettifer – bass
- John Hawker – conductor
- John Clifford White – vocals
- Phillip Beard – drums
- John Hewett – guitar
- Peter Pales – German vocals on "Pulling On the Boots"
- All songs composed and written by John Clifford White
- Produced by Doug Brady
The film was nominated for nine Australian Film Institute Awards. It won Best Achievement in Sound, Best Actor in a Lead Role and Best Original Music Score.
At the APRA Music Awards of 1993, the soundtrack won Television or Film Score of the Year.
6. Box office and reception
Romper Stomper grossed $3.2 million at the box office in Australia. The film has an approval rating of 79% on Rotten Tomatoes based on 28 reviews, with a weighted average of 6.29/10. David Stratton of SBS The Movie Show praised the acting style in the film but was appalled at the level of violence, and as a consequence refused to give it a rating while fellow Movie Show critic Margaret Pomeranz gave it four-and-a-half stars. Stratton also described the film in Variety as A Clockwork Orange without the intellect". Wright was so upset by Strattons rating that he later poured a glass of wine on Stratton during a chance meeting at the 1994 Venice Film Festival. Stratton would many years later clarify his rating stating: "I think Romper Stomper was a very well-made film and an extremely well-acted film, and I thought Geoffrey Wright had a lot of talent. What troubled me about Romper Stomper was that it was made in a time, I think 1992, when there had been some racial problems with young Vietnamese people, particularly in Melbourne, and.I thought the film could stir up more violence."
The film was highly controversial because of its violent content. In March 2000, British prisoner Robert Stewart bludgeoned his cellmate, Zahid Mubarek, to death with a wooden table leg at the Feltham Young Offenders Institution. In 2004, Stewart was found guilty of the racially motivated murder of Mubarek and was jailed for life. Stewart compared himself to Hando in Romper Stomper as well as Alex DeLarge in A Clockwork Orange. An inquiry heard that Stewart had watched Romper Stomper two days before the killing. A member of the inquiry team said he was a prolific letter writer, and much of his correspondence contained racist and violent content: "He sees himself in the correspondence starring in the film Romper Stomper as a racist thug attacking gooks," the inquiry was told. The Anti-Nazi League protested against the films London premiere.
Dylann Roof, the perpetrator of the Charleston church shooting, had an image of Hando dying on the homepage of his personal website.
8. Television series
In August 2017, Australian video streaming service Stan announced that it was producing Romper Stomper, a six-part television series, as a sequel to the film. The films director, Geoffrey Wright, will direct two episodes, alongside fellow directors Daina Reid and James Napier Robertson. The actors reprising their original roles are Jacqueline McKenzie, Dan Wyllie and John Brumpton.