Russell Crowe stars in “Romper Stomper,” a movie that put him on the radar screens of movie critics, and ultimately leading him from Australia and into Hollywood.  The Australian movie, “Romper Stomper,” is about a group of skinheads whose favorite target are Vietnamese immigrants who are just trying to live their lives in a new country.  Crowe, the most vicious and charismatic of the skinheads, leads the group.  Daniel Pollock plays the second in command, and the best friend of Crowe’s.  Pollock is the tragic figure here, as he has the most heart and compassion; and it’s easy to imagine him living a quiet life working a regular job.  But as we see so often in life, boys get into the wrong group for whatever reason, and they get entangled in all the nonsense and stupidity that usually leads to prison or an early death.  Complicating Pollock’s relationship to Crowe is Jacqueline McKenzie, who plays a troubled girl — troubled because her father molests her — who joins the group and becomes Crowe’s girl.   Crowe clearly doesn’t care for McKenzie, and McKenzie and Pollock slowly develop a friendship that leads to genuine affection.

So far, it sounds like “Romper Stomper” is a romantic drama, right?  Oh, no.  This is a vicious, hard-hitting movie that quickly draws you in, making you care for what happens to the skinheads.  That’s not to say you’ll like the skinheads, unless you’re a bigot who agrees with their sentiments.  Rather, you will want to know what happens to the characters, as all good stories will do.  Now, you may find yourself liking Pollock, as he has many redeeming qualities.  Don’t blame yourself if you do, because I wound up liking his character as the movie progressed; and that is a hard thing to admit to, considering I’m Asian, and Asians are the targets in this movie.

The movie opens with 3 Vietnamese kids — 2 teen boys and a teen girl — getting the hell beat out of them by the skinheads they run into.  What the skinheads don’t know is the girl is the sister of a tough, young man who commands the attention and respect of dozens of Vietnamese factory workers.   So, the Vietnamese group is on the lookout for the skinheads, if only they can find them.  And one day, they do.  The skinheads get a hold of two Vietnamese brothers who they beat mercilessly; but the 3rd brother gets away and goes to the factory where dozens of Vietnamese workers are.  This leads to my most memorable, movie moment: when dozens of enraged, Vietnamese teens surround and overwhelm the skinheads.  The skinheads make a hasty retreat, with one skinhead after another getting left behind to suffer brutal beatings by the Vietnamese workers.  The one-sided fight continues through alleyways, streets, and ultimately the home of the skinheads.   The Vietnamese workers crash through as the skinheads escape, and the Vietnamese continue their vengeance by trashing and burning the warehouse home of their enemy.  If this sequence doesn’t make your heart pound, it’s time to admit that you died and just don’t want to face it.  Oh, for those crying, “Why, oh, why, Manny, did you tell us the ending!”  Um, all this happens in the first act.

Next runner-up for my memorable, movie moment of “Romper Stomper” is the scene when Pollock and McKenzie have sex for the first time.  It ends with each saying to the other “I love you.”  Both are surprised to say it as well as hear it coming from the other person.  These are two characters who’ve dealt with nothing but s*@t prior to meeting each other; and now they’ve found something beautiful and truly meaningful in their lives.   But Crowe stands in the background, with his hate threatening to destroy the new love that has formed.

“Romper Stomper” is one of those rare movies that are hard to watch because of the harsh, subject matter; but once you start watching, it’s hard to stop.  That is great storytelling.  My compliments to the writer/director, Geoffrey Wright, and the actors of this movie.

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