Picks and Pans Review: Romper Stomper

updated 07/05/1993 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 07/05/1993 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Russell Crowe, Jacqueline McKenzie, Daniel Pollock

Crowe, playing the snarling, Mein Kampf-quoting leader of a small group of neo-Nazi skinheads in this invigoratingly abrasive Australian film, takes a carton of milk out of the refrigerator and swipes it across his forehead to cool himself off. The gesture is copied straight from James Dean in Rebel Without a Cause (1955), but what a difference the passing years have made. Whereas Dean and his buds were simply angst-ridden American adolescents testing societal norms via sex and hot-rodding, Crowe and his apparently parentless band are vicious white supremacists who roam the streets of Melbourne beating up Asian immigrants.

Romper Stamper has a powerful kick—right to the stomach. The movie doesn't pull its punches as it graphically shows how these skinheads, with little sense of self or purpose, band together against another group to give meaning to their pathetically barren lives. Considering that skinheads in Germany and England are almost daily making news with their often fatal attacks on nonwhites, Romper's look at the Aussie version of these enraged misfits couldn't be more timely.

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