Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Romper Stomper

Russell Crowe, love him or hate him, when he’s on screen, is usually quite the performer. Browsing his filmography—Cinderella Man, Gladiator, A Beautiful Mind—you’ll find mostly all fine movies where Crowe was able to craft his character into a person you could root for, fall in love with, or simply appreciate as an interesting human being. Before he was garnering accolades left and right (and being overly belligerent towards anyone who looked at him funny), there was his first breakout film—Romper Stomper.

In nearly every one of Crowe’s recent and well known movies, he’s played the hero or a character with at least a few redeeming character traits. Not so in Romper Stomper. Crowe plays the leader of a skinhead gang in Germany, a gang that doesn’t shy away from wanton, unprovoked violence, blaring crust punk, binge drinking every day of the week, woman beating, sloppy sex, and racially motivated beatdowns.

Violence is a very central part of this story, with one extended gang fight lasting more than 20 minutes in length. There are also multiple scenes of racial torturing, as well as a relatively unbloody, until the final few minutes that is, but undeniably intense final scene. Those with a weak stomach and those who have a hard time watching hardcore racism put into practice should, no doubt, keep far away from this movie, but for those who want to see what the dark underbelly of the German skinhead lifestyle is all about, Romper Stomper will show it to you in its full, brutal glory,

While watching this film play out, it wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to look at it in the light of being a quasi-documentary. Every scene, every character, and every squeamish moment is coated in a film of grit and grime that sets this film apart from your standard slick Hollywood production. Some may say that this was nothing more than a byproduct of the picture’s budget (and if so, it was a great byproduct), but from the way that the film played out, it would be hard to say that it wasn’t intentional.

Further adding to the reality, and potentially to the grit and violence associated with the movie, was a small tidbit of information that can be found on IMDB about this movie’s supporting star, Daniel Pollock:
After being romantically involved with Romper Stomper (1992) co-star 'Jaquline McKenzie', Pollock (a heroin addict) threw himself under a train after filming was finished.
Not to give away too much of the romantic subplot in the film or to make light of Pollock’s suicide, but one of the themes throughout the story was Daniel’s character’s love for Jaquline’s character, a love portrayed ever so wonderfully, now more than likely because he really became the role he was cast into. Oddly, this small fact adds a lot to the movie—knowing that while you are watching a film about a budding romance within the confines of the skinhead lifestyle, one of the actor’s was as close to living it out as he possibly could be.

Much like American History X, this is a film that is hard to watch, but by doing so you will be granted an insight on a lifestyle that has been both destructive and educational. Seeing the consequences that come from leading lives of sheer reckless abandon and watching them self destruct because of it is a thing of grotesque beauty, and also, to a small degree, a validation to yourself for progressing out of the pits of unadulterated racism and violence.

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