“Romper Stomper”: A Film About Hate

1. Introduction

"Romper Stomper" is a 1992 Australian drama film written and directed by Geoffrey Wright. The film follows the exploits and eventual demise of an Australian skinhead group who claim to be neo-Nazis.

The film was released in the wake of a series of race riots that had occurred in Australia in the late 1980s and early 1990s. It was also released at a time when public opinion was turning against the Vietnam War, which had deeply divided Australian society.

The film was controversial upon its release, with many accusing it of glamorizing violence and racism. However, it has since been reappraised by critics, who have praised its honesty and sensitivity in depicting the characters and their motivations.

2. Summary of the film

The film opens with a group of skinheads attacking two Vietnamese teenagers. One of the skinheads, Hando (Russell Crowe), is particularly brutal, savagely beating one of the boys with a metal chain.

The skinheads are part of a neo-Nazi group led by Gabe (Jacqueline McKenzie). They spend their days vandalizing property, verbally abusing non-whites, and planning attacks on their enemies.

One day, they attack a group of Vietnamese fishermen, resulting in one of the fishermen being killed. This leads to a violent confrontation with a rival Vietnamese gang, who brutally beat Hando.
Davey (Daniel Pollock), another member of the skinhead group, becomes romantically involved with Ellie (Alexandra Schepisi), the daughter of a wealthy businessman. Ellie is initially attracted to Davey’s tough exterior, but she quickly realizes that he is nothing more than a violent thug.
Meanwhile, Gabe begins to distance herself from Hando, who she feels is becoming too unpredictable and dangerous. She starts to become attracted to Davey, much to Hando’s jealousy.
The skinhead group eventually falls apart due to infighting and Ellie’s father hiring private security to protect his business from them. Hando ends up getting arrested for his involvement in a firebombing plot and is sent to prison.
While in prison, he becomes even more radicalized and violent. Upon his release, he sets out to exact revenge on those who have wronged him. In the process, he brutally murders Ellie’s father and several other innocent people.
He is eventually cornered by the police and commits suicide by detonating a bomb strapped to his chest.

3. Themes and analysis

The central theme of "Romper Stomper" is hate. The characters are driven by an all-consuming hatred for anyone who is not like them. This includes not only racial minorities, but also those from different social classes or political ideologies.
This hatred is what leads them to commit acts of violence against innocent people. It also causes them to self-destruct, as they are unable to see beyond their own hatred and find any common ground with others.
Violence is another key theme of the film. The characters are constantly resorting to violence as a way to solve their problems or express their anger. This ultimately leads to their downfall, as they are unable or unwilling to resolve their conflicts in any other way.
The film also deals with the theme of betrayal. The characters are constantly betraying each other, both emotionally and physically. This leads to a deep sense of mistrust and paranoia among them, which further fuels their hatred and violence.

4. The historical context

The film is set in the 1970s, against the backdrop of the Vietnam War. This was a time of great social upheaval in Australia, as the country was deeply divided over whether or not to support the war.
Many people were opposed to the war, due to the large number of civilian casualties that were being caused by it. Others supported it, as they saw it as a necessary step in protecting Australia’s interests in Southeast Asia.
The division within Australian society over the war led to a rise in political extremism on both sides of the debate. This is reflected in the film, with the skinhead group being depicted as neo-Nazis and the Vietnamese gang being shown as communist sympathizers.

5. Reception and legacy

"Romper Stomper" was released to mixed reviews from critics. Many accused the film of glamorizing violence and racism. However, others praised its realism and sensitivity in depicting the characters and their motivations.
The film was a commercial success, grossing over $2 million at the box office. It has since gone on to become a cult classic, with many praising its honesty in depicting the dark side of human nature.

6. Conclusion

"Romper Stomper" is a controversial but important film that deals with some difficult and sensitive subjects. It provides a rare insight into the minds of those who hate and how that hate can ultimately lead to self-destruction.


The film's title is referring to the main character, skinhead Ned Kelly.

The main characters in the film are Ned Kelly and his friends, who are motivated by their shared hatred of the police.

Violence plays a role in the story both physically and emotionally; physically, because the skinheads engage in violent acts such as beatings and riots, and emotionally, because the violence affects them deeply, making them angry and bitter.

Geoffrey Wright did succeed in making a film about skinheads that is not preachy; he humanizes the characters and shows their complex motivations for their actions.

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