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Hando (Russell Crowe) leads a nasty gang of skinhead neo-Nazis battling for white supremacy in Melbourne's blue collar 'burbs. But as the Vietnamese community grows, so does the gang's racist hatred and desperation to protect their territory. When they lose their hideout after a bloody rumble between gangs, all bets are off. With the cops closing in, Hando struggles to keep his gang together, not knowing his best friend Davey (Daniel Pollack) is sleeping with his estranged, messed up girlfriend Gabe (Jacqueline McKenzie).

Review by Shannon J. Harvey:
This is it: the hardcore movie that made Russell Crowe an international star, leading the way for an "Aussiewood" revival and helping guys like Heath Ledger and Eric Bana break through from their similarly gutsy Australian films as Two Hands and Chopper respectively. Crowe gives a mesmerising performance as a true monster here; muscular, menacing and seething with hatred and sex appeal. He won the best actor AFI that year, though Best Film sadly went to the sequined costume drama Strictly Ballroom.

Geoffrey Wright should have won for best director and best screenplay too, for he delivered one of the powerhouse Australian films of all time, up there with Mad Max for its sheer voracity of a nightmarish world. Then there's the violence, where Ron Hagen's camera work throws you brutally into battle, where logic and common human decency fly out the window.

While Wright gets effectively inside Hando's head, with his creeds of brotherhood and loyalty, the love story subtext doesn't quite work. Was it necessary to make Jacqueline McKenzie abused by her father? Or would being Hando's girlfriend mess her up enough? Daniel Pollock gives a soulful performance as Hando's right-hand-man with a conscience. He was romantically linked with McKenzie off-screen, but sadly committed suicide shortly after filming wrapped (he threw himself under a train).

Though never before released on DVD in Australia, Wright largely avoids this topic in his audio commentary. He instead discusses how difficult the film was to get made (he tried to get funding for five years), how the title is a play on the kids TV show Romper Room, and how Crowe and other cast members were almost arrested during filming in full skinhead uniform. Wright reveals how the film was shot in just six weeks on 16mm film, all due to extremely tight funding. While his commentary is refreshing and insightful, the other main feature of the DVD is 90 minutes of interviews that formed part of the electronic press kit. It is bitsy, with many short grabs from cast and crew, but finding out why Wright chose such controversial material that "spits in the face of expectations about Aussie films" is worthwhile.

Then there's the time he and Crowe almost came to blows.

Rounding off the disc are 31 black and white photographs from the set, trailers and bios. The Romper Stomper DVD is a single-disc, non-DTS transfer, and the extras aren't numerous. Hearing Crowe's thoughts on the film would make the DVD much better, or other opinions on skinhead culture, but the film stands alone as a towering achievement of Aussie filmmaking.

Published September 4, 2003

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(Aus) - 1992

CAST: Russell Crowe, Daniel Pollock, Jacqueline McKenzie, Alex Scott, Leigh Russell, Daniel Wyllie, James McKenna, Tony Lee

DIRECTOR: Geoffrey Wright

RUNNING TIME: 89 minutes

PRESENTATION: 1.85:1, 16:9 enhanced; Dolby Digital 5.1

SPECIAL FEATURES: Director's Commentary, Interviews for 1992 Theatrical Release, Photo Gallery, Theatrical Trailer, Cast and Crew Biographies, Easter Eggs.

DVD DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow Entertainment

DVD RELEASE: September 1, 2003

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