Wednesday, November 14, 2007

"Romper Stomper"(1992)d/Geoffrey Wright

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Judging by many directors' portrayal of skinheads on the big screen,I probably shouldn't be here typing this,opting instead to drunkenly howl footie chants locked-arm with other brutally antisocial,violent-prone sociopaths,stumbling out of the pub looking for easy victims,or ploughing roughshod into each other to aggressive strains of oi music in a circle pit.In the same vein,I'm not going to climb upon a soapbox and whine about books,covers,and judging.It is what it is.Some directors(Greydon Clark,John Singleton)fail miserably in capturing the phenomenon on celluloid,others(Alan Clarke,Richard Jobson)come a great deal closer,while no one can honestly boast of nailing it properly.That being said,Geoffrey Wright's 1992 film is probably my favorite on the subject matter,though hardly perfect.
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A girl and her bootboys,strange love triangle,this.
A gang of skins beats up some skateboarding Asians in an Australian tube station.Elsewhere,Gabe(Jacqueline Mackenzie) enlists a familiar face to make a clean break with her junkie boyfriend.Pommey Bill has come to help.While Bill hems up the skinny drug addict,the older man lectures Gabe about the drugs she should be taking instead as she hurriedly gathers her things.When he paws one of her breasts,she shoots him down,and leaves on her own.At an Asian restaurant,a young blood-stained Vietnamese implores his friends to help him seek revenge for the bashing his sister has just taken at the hands of skinheads.They decline.Gabe finds herself at the Railway Hotel,a Melbourne pub,when a group of skins barge in triumphantly.Some punk/goth/question mark girls ask the leader,Hando(Russell Crowe)and his best mate,Davey(Daniel Pollock) if they'll stomp the hippies that kicked the girls out of a squat,while the youngest,Bubsy, is denied alcohol and carried out by one of the skinhead girls.Hando's boys question the bartender about having gooks in the pub,while Hando and Davey are attracted to Gabe at the bar.She leaves with the skins,who harrass a homeless bum otuside a string of closed stores.A jacket in the on display catches Gabe's eye,so Hando,ever chivalrous,smashes the shop window out and steals it for her.After the gang stumbles back to their delapidated warehouse/headquarters,Hando carries Gabe up to his room,and they sleep together.
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Davey,Bubs,and Hando mug for the camera.
The next morning,the ugly Melbourne boys are joined by the handsome Canberra boys,led by Magoo,and a wild party ensues that night,with booze spilling,bodies flailing,and Davey,who's feelings for Gabe have grown,attacking a heavy bag with a cartoon gook drawn on the side.Amidst the mayhem,Hando drags Gabe up to his room and roughly fucks her from behind all the while grasping a German World War 2 relief he has displayed on his wall.
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"Who's your fuhrer,bitch,huh?!!Who's your fuhrer?!!"
The next day,the skins' meal is interrupted by Bubs and Brett,who relate to the gang that there's gooks at the Railway Hotel.The skins jump into action,grabbing assorted weaponry and piling into Magoo's junk car bound for the pub.There,they brutally beat two Asians unconscious,not knowing they had just bought the place,and that the third had gone to get lunch for them.The young Vietnamese,horrified by the sight of his bloody,beaten brothers,goes off and enlists all the Asians help down at the factory.Soon the skins' bullying turns into a fight for life,as they are swarmed by angry factory workers,who chase them back to their warehouse before the skins escape through the roof.The Asians set their hang out on fire.
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"Give him smack in head...special!"
The skins count their losses;Luke,Magoo,Brett,Champ,all beaten or dead.They bully the local hippies out of their squat,which becomes the new skins headquarters.They plan on getting guns to extract revenge for their dead mates,when Gabe suggests the bootboys ransack the flat of Martin, her "familiar face" from earlier in the film.At the old man's gated residence, the modern-day stormtroopers interrupt his attempt to seduce the young girl,and inform him:"We've come to wreck everything.God sent us."As the skinheads drunkenly thieve anything they can pile into Martin's Rolls Royce,Gabe reveals that he's not only a former lover,but her father as well(blech!).Martin is beaten and bound to the toilet while the skins vandalize and play silly buggers with his Japanese-imported sports car.After the toilet is smashed in an argument with his daughter,Martin uses a jagged piece of porcelain to free himself and arm himself with a handgun.Does he dispatch his anebriated intruders?How does the turf war between the gang and the Asians end?Does Gabe find love with Hando or Davey?And,if so, will their violent,xenophobic creed allow for a relationship to blossom?All loose ends are deftly tied at the tense,action packed climax of the film.
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Fourth Reich fighting men,that's who they are.
Wright's urban drama made a name for Russell Crowe overnight,skyrocketing the actor to A list status in films like "Gladiator" and "A Beautiful Mind".During the filming, Crowe actually got himself arrested in a bar brawl while dressed in character(talk about method acting,sheesh),the director having to vouch for the actor that he was not in fact the leader of a gang of hooligans!Crowe insisted he and his celluloid gang work out together at the gym,drink together at the pub,etc. all to bond the players as if they were indeed the angry faces you see before you on the big screen.He even had baseball caps made with "T.B.T.U." or Tomorrow Belongs to Us,a play on a song from the musical Cabaret to remind the men they were actors,not realizing that very song was made popular in the skinhead scene by right wing band Skrewdriver at the time.Oops.Daniel Pollock,the actor who played Davey and real-life boyfriend to Jacqueline Mackenzie,was fighting a heroin addiction and killed himself before the film's release.A gripping,fast-paced glimpse into violent gang life,their desperate cry for a return to order often falling on the deaf ears of an ever-changing world,and how precious love can be,if even for a fleeting moment in a darkened back alley.Once you've seen it,you won't soon forget it.Highly recommended.
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Anonymous said...

I just recently watched the movie and approved. It had a steady pace, and with the mix of fight scenes and various drama this did have a good flow to the plot and kept the viewer involved. My only difference is I would have had Gabe killed after about 5 mins, she got under my skin a bit hehe

beedubelhue said...

Finally someone who sees Gabe for what she REALLY was:a drugged out bitch who broke up a great friendship.After(spoiler alert)Davey jams the Hitler Jugend dagger(the one Hando BOUGHT for him,mind you!)into Hando's neck...what did THAT prove?Davey's guilty of a handful of crimes and is no doubt going to jail,Gabe will just move on to the next trick.Pointless!Moral of the story:Don't leave your friends in the dust for a girl who's dodgy at best!

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