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“We came to smash everything and ruin your life. God sent us.” - Sonny Jim.

Feature


Written and directed by Geoffrey Wright ( Cherry Falls), 1992’s Romper Stomper tells the story of a vicious group of Australian skinheads—led by Hando (Russell Crowe)—and their fight for white supremacy in a rundown neighbourhood amidst the suburbs of Melbourne. The main target for the gang’s vitriol is the local Vietnamese community, with whom they have a number of violent run-ins. It is after one particularly brutal clash with the ‘gooks’ that the skinheads find themselves on the run from both the Vietnamese population and the police. At around this time, a rebellious young girl named Gabe (Jacqueline McKenzie) enters their world and begins a relationship with Hando. However, Gabe harbours a dark secret; one that will have devastating repercussions for the gang and drive a wedge between Hando and his right-hand-man, Davey (Daniel Pollock).

Romper Stomper: Special Edition

Video


Contender Entertainment presents Romper Stomper in its theatrical ratio of 1.85:1, complete with anamorphic enhancement for those able to take advantage. On the whole the image is very pleasing, especially for a film originally shot using Super16 rather than the more traditional 35mm film. The observant among you will notice a distinct blue cast to the images on this page. This is an intentional move on the part of the director and DP—a fact that is touched upon during the commentary track—and on the whole the muted palette does an excellent job of portraying the skinheads’ world, which is a cold, harsh place in itself.

While detail levels fall somewhat short of what one might expect from a recent release, the image is surprisingly free from unsightly grain, but that’s not to say it’s without problems. Probably the greatest of these is the amount of ‘sparklies’, or white flecks, found on the print. While never truly distracting, they are obtrusive enough to cost the transfer points. I also observed at least one instance where the transfer ‘wobbled’ quite noticeably, which was actually far more distracting than the film artefacts. Still, it seems churlish to criticise the transfer too harshly for these ‘failings’, especially when bearing in mind the relatively low-budget origins and the lack of commercial success of the film.

Romper Stomper: Special Edition

Audio


The disc includes for English language tracks: Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo, Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1. For the purpose of this review I chose to listen to the film using the DTS soundtrack, although I applaud the inclusion of the original Stereo track for the purists. For the most part the soundtrack is front-heavy, but the surrounds do come to life during a number of key sequences to add that little bit extra to certain scenes. These tend to be during the violent scenes, such as the mass brawl at around the thirty-minute mark. The only real issue I had when listening to these portions of the soundtrack was that the bass was perhaps a little lacking when compared to, say, a modern release. I would have liked the LFE to really pack a punch during the savage encounters. I guess I’ll be left wanting.

More often than not it is the score that finds its way into the rears, so it’s especially handy that it’s an award-winning effort from John Clifford White. Best described as a minimalist effort, it is still able to heighten the tension and deliver the goods when it matters. There are also a number of specially-written neo-Nazi punk songs littering the soundtrack, once again courtesy of John Clifford White. These are best described as primal, guttural anthems, which discuss such gentle topics as chasing Vietnamese people and kicking them to death. However, while the subject matter may not be to everyone’s liking, there can be no denying the raw energy of these tracks. John’s rendition of the lyrics on the commentary had me laughing out loud, mostly because of his accent, which is anything but threatening.

 Romper Stomper: Special Edition

Extras


This release of Romper Stomper arrives with a smattering of supplemental features, but not nearly enough to justify the ‘Special Edition’ tag. The best extra is, without a doubt, an audio commentary by writer/director Geoffrey Wright and various members of the production team. The commentary is both entertaining and informative, with few pauses during the ninety-minute running time, although there is more dead air towards the end than I would have liked. The participants have a good rapport, and I found the whole thing very easy to listen to.

Moving on to disc two we come to the rest of the supplemental material. First up are a series of interviews with Russell Crowe, Geoffrey Wright, Jacqueline McKenzie, Tony Lee and Paul MacDonald, which range from around twelve minutes to almost thirty minutes in duration. While there can be no doubting the generous running time of the interviews, nor the fact that there are some interesting gems to be gleaned from them, I personally have a very hard time with these ‘talking-head’ pieces. Now while this isn’t really Contender’s fault—these interviews are from 1992, as found on the now-deleted region one Special Edition—I still would have liked a little interaction between the interviewer and interviewee.

The only other material on offer consists primarily of still galleries. Two of these are included and are labelled ‘Exclusive Gallery’ and ‘Action Gallery’. Neither really sparked my interest. The final slice of bonus material, entitled ‘Behind-the-Scenes Photo Shoot’ is a short (it runs a little under three minutes) piece in which we are, unsurprisingly, given a look behind-the-scenes at a photo shoot… Well at least it does what it says on the tin. The absence of the isolated score, film restoration featurette, trailers and reviews from the region one release are lamentable, and with them the set would have garnered a few more points in this area.

Romper Stomper: Special Edition

Overall


Romper Stomper is a good film packaged in a solid, if unspectacular two-disc set. It was pleasing to watch Russell Crowe in one of his earlier films, before his real-life punch-ups eclipsed his on-screen scuffles. His performance as Hando is, in a word, raw, and should not be missed. Praise must also go to the supporting cast, with particular attention paid to both Jacqueline McKenzie and the late Daniel Pollock (who died shortly before the theatrical release of the film). When you factor in the impressive audio-visual quality the package starts to look very attractive, even if the supplemental features leave a little to be desired. Even with that said I have no qualms about recommending this set to fans of the film, Crowe, or hard-hitting drama in general.


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