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Site created 12/15/97.

review added: 11/20/00

Romper Stomper
Special Edition - 1992 (2000) - 20th Century Fox

review by Todd Doogan of The Digital Bits

Enhanced for 16x9 TVs

Romper Stomper Film Rating: B+

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): A/A/C

Specs and Features

Disc One: The Film
93 mins, NR, letterboxed widescreen (1.85:1), 16x9 enhanced, single-sided, RSDL dual-layered (layer switch 1:04:53, at the start of chapter 18), dual-disc Amaray keep case packaging, audio commentary with writer/director Geoffrey Wright, isolated soundtrack (Dolby Digital 2.0), animated film-themed menu screens, scene access (24 chapters), languages: English (DD 5.1 & 3.0 & DTS 5.1), subtitles: English, Closed Captioned

Disc Two: Special Edition Content
NR, theatrical trailer, cast and crew bios, restoration demonstration, photo gallery with film facts, three interviews with Geoffrey Wright (Making the Movie, Skinheads: Reality and Fiction and Response to Romper Stomper, interviews (circa 1992) with Wright, Russell Crowe, Jacqueline McKenzie and Tony Lee, full text reviews from People, Rolling Stone and the L.A. Times, animated film-themed menus with music

Oh... what a twisted web Fox weaves. Taking full advantage of Gladiator's release to DVD, Fox is putting out their own Russell Crowe flick as a double disc set. And while it's a really well made film, it's not going to please the masses who really dug Crowe in Gladiator. In fact, most women (who have a new Kiwi heartthrob in Crowe) will be downright sickened by this film. You need to have an open mind and a strong constitution to get all the way through the film's seemingly pro-violence propaganda and find the light at the end of the tunnel. No one is redeemed and there's no real sense of right or wrong in the film. But the film is certainly not saying it's okay to hate. In fact, it just shows us that hate is an international language (as if we didn't know that already). Writer/director Geoffrey Wright simply slaps the story and the message down as a snapshot of a world many of us have never seen, and says, "This is the way it is - deal with it." It's an incredible film, but it's not the type of cross-promotion hit on DVD that Fox is looking for. And if Fox does sell a lot of copies, expect a lot of returns.

Romper Stomper shows us what it's like growing up lower class and proud to be white in the western suburbs of Melbourne, Australia. Our main focus is a group of skinheads led by Hando (Crowe) and his right hand man Davey (Daniel Pollock, who died shortly after the film wrapped of self-inflicted wounds due to his inability to kick a bad heroin habit). This crew of disillusioned youth has marked the growing Vietnamese population as their target, and when they encounter Vietnamese kids, expect some trouble. But there may be a bit of hope for Hando, as he finds a pretty young thing named Gabe (Jacqueline McKenzie) one night. Gabe has herself a bit of a heroin habit and a dad with amorous thoughts. But Hando the hero saves her from all that, and brings her into his own drunken world, filled with blood soaked Nazi flags, immigrant bashing and spontaneous looting. Out of the frying pan, they say. Together, we as an audience think, they may be able to find love and live a good life. Yeah, right. Things get complicated when Davey starts making eyes at Gabe, and the crew goes on the run after they learn that the minority they have picked to shit on is no minority at all. They are a seething mass of people who are tired of being the hunted and want revenge. Slowly but surely, everyone will learn from their mistakes. And in most cases, that lesson is death.

Romper Stomper is very well directed, acted, written and all that. But the violence in it is pure and hate filled. Plus, it's pretty much non-stop. Even the sex scenes aren't very tender. Instead they're more like wild rutting better suited for gonzo porn (and one such session looks pretty real. Considering the two participants were dating at the time, maybe it was. You figure out which one.). I actually like this film, but I think the line on the back of the box ("Those who saw Russell Crowe's mesmerizing star turn in Gladiator will be blown away by his breakthrough performance in Romper Stomper") is a bit of an understatement. You'll get blown away all right. But that may not be a good thing for those of you who aren't prepared for the brutal tone of the film. Just imagine Reservoir Dogs' ear scene spread over a 93-minute running time and you'll have an idea what the film is like.

The transfer on this DVD is pretty stellar for what it is. Presented in anamorphic widescreen at 1.85:1, the film looks really impressive. Considering that the film is a 35mm blow-up from 16mm, get ready for grain that's supposed to be there. Colors are dead on, blacks are true and detailed and there's no artifacting or any other anomalies to be found. There's some questionable print damage here and there, but you couldn't expect a flawless looking transfer for a film like this. The audio is surprising. We get a choice of DTS and Dolby Digital 5.1, as well as the restored original 2.0 Surround track. All of them sound great, with the DTS, as usual, sounding best of all. The score is what benefits most from this, and works well in the film. Keep in mind that all these songs are original to this film and you'll be even more impressed (even if you get insulted by their subject matter). And you can also listen to this score on an isolated Dolby Digital 2.0 track - very nice.

That said, I'm about to criticize something that I never ever thought I'd criticize in a million and one years. Why the hell is this a two-disc set? It didn't need to be. On Disc One, we get a really well thought out commentary track with Wright, as he discusses the making of the film, what it took to do the research and how he marketed it to the masses. It's a damn good track. But on Disc Two, we get three interviews (one of which is listed as a documentary on the jacket listing) with Wright discussing more of the same information. As interesting as he and the subject matter are, I really don't need an additional 50 minutes of talking head stuff from Wright. Maybe if the info was presented as a true back and forth interview, or in a jazzy environment, it would be tolerable. But it's just talking head stuff edited together comment to comment. It's boring. This material is especially troubling when you hear from McKenzie (during her interview) that there was a deleted opening scene. Wright also discusses interview tapes he made during his research for the film. I mean, if you're gonna do a special edition two-disc set, where's that stuff? Also on the second disc we also get a retro EPK set of interviews with Wright, Crowe, McKenzie and Tony Lee (who played the lead Vietnamese kid) circa 1992, which was neat to see and hear. There's a photo gallery with film facts typed out under each photo, a trailer, three text interviews from major print magazines and papers... and the absolute worst restoration demonstration ever. I swear, the thing will work your nerves. One scene is interesting, but three? How anyone could put together such a boring special edition for this incredible film is beyond me. But here it is staring me in the face.

Romper Stomper is worth checking out if you're really a fan of films like this. But don't be fooled - this doesn't have anywhere near Gladiator's mainstream accessibility. The special edition treatment is welcomed, but it's something of a misfire. If you listen to the commentary track, the only thing you'll miss on Disc Two (if you skip it) is the film's trailer. Still, if you're a fan of Crowe, by all means check this film out - he delivers a top-notch performance here. And if you DO give it a chance, push yourself to watch it all the way through. Romper Stomper does have its charms. But if you don't think you can handle it... well, buy Gladiator. And, you know, you should buy Gladiator anyway.

Todd Doogan

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