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Romper Stomper: Special Edition

Russell Crowe already had a handful of Australian film credits when he starred in Geoffrey Wright's 1992 Romper Stomper, but it was the first time most in the U.S. had seen him, and it was the sort of break-out role that launches a career. At the 1993 Seattle International Film Festival, Crowe won the Best Actor award. He also won Best Actor awards from the Film Critics' Circle of Australia and the Variety Club Heart Awards. This is the movie that made Russell Crowe a movie star, if from an unlikely project. After all, Romper Stomper is a brutal film about the final days of a group of neo-Nazi Melbourne skinheads. Hando (Crowe) and his band are obsessed with immigrants from Southeast Asia, who they see buying up local businesses and — in their view — taking over their country. On the dole, living in abandoned buildings, they take out their powerlessness and frustrations on Southeast Asians they turn on in the streets, using bats, fists and knives to release their unfocused anger. But when Gabe (Jacqueline McKenzie), a disturbed, rich, epileptic girl, hooks up with Hando, she catches the eye of Hando's slightly-more-sensitive best mate, Davey (Daniel Pollock). With the skinheads getting sloppier and less focused, and the dynamic between Davey and Hando changing, the film examines not only the reasoning (if you can call it that) behind neo-Nazi behavior, but also the themes of loyalty and friendship. Romper Stomper has drawn a lot of comparisons to A Clockwork Orange, mostly because of an initial scene in a train station and Crowe's droog-like costuming. But the comparison ends there. Where A Clockwork Orange is an elegant, complicated film by a master filmmaker, Romper Stomper is stark, straightforward and almost documentary in nature. At the center is Crowe, and he's brilliant. Swaggering, violent and charismatic, he's identifiable as the leader from the moment you see his face. Other roles in the film are filled by equally compelling actors, like McKenzie's psycho-girl Gabe and Pollock's turn as the brooding, conflicted Davey. Fox's two-disc Romper Stomper: Special Edition comes with a solid anamorphic transfer (1.85:1) with audio in Dolby Digital and DTS 5.1, and the film has a gorgeously re-mastered picture (although in some ways the restoration compromises the grittier feel of the original Super 16 print). Features include a commentary with director Wright and an isolated score on the first disc, while Disc Two includes the original theatrical trailer; snippets from print reviews; cast and crew notes; interview segments with Wright; 1992 interview sound bites from Wright, Crowe, McKenzie, and actor Tony Lee; a "facts and photos" section with stills and trivia; and a demonstration of how the film was restored for this release.
—Dawn Taylor

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