Film critics hailed Romper Stomper as one of the most brilliant, provocative and truly exciting Australian motion pictures to appear on the screen – violent but never gratuitous, emotionally powerful and never afraid to portray the ugly, destructive face of ignorance and prejudice.
Hando (Russell Crowe) – a powerful, menacing and intimidating white supremacist – and his best mate Davey (Daniel Pollock) lead a rampaging gang of neo-Nazi skinheads in the inner city Footscray area of Melbourne, during the 80s.
They beat up young Vietnamese migrants, get drunk and fall down, living off the dole, in a disused tyre warehouse draped with Nazi flags.
Gabe (Jacqueline McKenzie), running from an incestuous relationship with her rich father, joins the gang as Hando’s girlfriend, but Davey is also attracted to her.
When young Vietnamese kids retaliate, led by Tiger (Tony Lee), the skinheads escape to an abandoned warehouse, where Hando plots his revenge. Gabe pursues her own vengeance, by leading the gang into her father’s house.
When Hando kicks her out, she tells the cops where the gang are hiding. Routed again, this time by the police – Hando, Davey and Gabe take to the road.
Romper Stomper is not pretty or comforting, but it’s an incredibly exciting film to watch, and that forces the viewer to confront his or her attitudes to violence as entertainment.
Several film-makers said it was racist towards Asians and sympathetic towards skinheads and neo-Nazis. Many similar things were said about Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange, made in the UK 20 years earlier, a film from which Romper Stomper borrows heavily – but the outrage was similarly misdirected.