Directors: Geoffrey Wright, James Napier Robertson, Daina Reid
Screenplay: Geoffrey Wright, Dan Edwards, John Edwards, James Napier Robertson, Malcolm Knox, Omar Musa
Starring: Lachy Hulme, Jacqueline McKenzie, Toby Wallace, Lily Sullivan, Sophie Lowe, David Wyllie
Duration: 360 min
BBFC Certification: 15
After a number of atrocious terrorist acts committed by so called Muslim extremists in recent years, Donald Trump taking office as the President of the United States and the rise of the Alt-Right, it seems that racism has become legitimised. Far right groups no longer seem to operate as small groups of thugs and boot boys, but have become larger more organised entities that almost have a respectability about them. Romper Stomper, the new 6 part Australian TV series, is set 25 years after the original film that launched Russell Crowe’s career and reflects this perfectly by moving its focus from the neo-Nazi skinheads to today’s right wing parties influencing Australian politics.
Lachy Hulme stars as Blake Farron, a middle class business owner who leads a white nationalist, anti-Muslim group called Patriot Blue. He regales his followers with recitations of poems by Australian poet Henry Lawson and delivers speeches on how white culture and Christianity is under attack – the sort of rubbish we’re unfortunately used to hearing here in the UK from the likes of the EDL and Britain First.
The series opens with Patriot Blue protesting a Halal food festival in a Melbourne park, when they are attacked by the extreme-left Antifasc. We are also introduced to Laila (Nicole Chamoun), a university student from a liberal Muslim family, who is caught up in the violence trying to protect a young girl and unwittingly becomes the poster girl for her community. As Patriot Blue are overwhelmed by the anti-fascists, Farron is separated and rescued by newcomer Kane (Toby Wallace), the son of Gabe (Jacqueline McKenzie, reprising her role from the 1992 film). As a reward, he is invited to join the group and quickly makes his mark forming gangs that patrol Melbourne at night, dishing out their own brand of street justice.
As the series progresses, more characters are introduced – Petra (Lily Sullivan), leader of Antifasc whose methods differ very little from her enemies. Blake’s wife Zoe (Sophie Lowe) a former drug addict and Christian zealot who is dangerously obsessed with the Book of Revelations. Backing Patriot Blue, is right wing talk show host Jago Zoric, played with creepy menace by David Wenham, who manipulates Laila. And finally we have two former members of Hando’s gang from the original film, Cackles (Dan Wyllie) who is now a seemingly respectable businessman running a white goods store (which is a lousy pun from writer Geoffrey Wright) and Magoo (John Brumpton), a virtual recluse living deep in the bush, stockpiling weapons ready for the oncoming race war.
The stand-out performance is from Jacqueline McKenzie, continuing her role from the 1992 film. Gabe has turned her life around and is now a successful business women, but she cannot fully escape her dark past. She is a character of two sides, the mother who is desperate to save her son from his hate filled and destructive path and the daughter who visits her dying father in a hospice just to torment him as revenge for his past sexual abuse of her.
As much as I enjoyed this series, it does have its issues. While it is better than the film for spending equal screen time on the varying groups, it does offer more complexity and development to the white nationalists. Many of the anti-fascist and Muslim characters are thinly written, making it easier to warm to the members of Patriot Blue and the other right wing antagonists. I worry that someone going into it who may already lean towards some form of bigotry will feel that the series somehow justifies their views.
That being said, Romper Stomper, is a riveting thriller which gives a disturbing picture of extremism in the Trump-era. An era in which the far right market themselves as a legitimate alternative to political parties that are portrayed as being unable to protect the populace from the perceived threat of immigrant terrorists. An era where the opponents of the hatemongers are sadly now resorting to more and more unethical methods of resistance.
Romper Stomper is released on DVD by Acorn Media International.