Stan’s Romper Stomper
Episode 1: “Arrival”
Directed & Written
by Geoffrey Wright
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “If Blood Should Stain the Wattle” – click here
If you’ve never seen the film Romper Stomper, get the fuck on it! Because here we are, 25 years on. I’ll tell you one thing, that opening credits sequence is absolutely stunning. Not only is there a musical callback to the original film, the visuals with all those symbols is mesmerising.
A group of white men are scared of the “oppressive chokehold” that multiculturalism brings to Australia. They’ve brought a spit-roasted pig into a neighbourhood to protest against Muslims. They’re a group called Patriot Blue; white nationalists led by Blake Farron (Lachy Hulme). At the same time, an anarchist group, Antifasc – led by Petra (Lily Sullivan) and a few others – brings the fight to their doorstep. We see the far right and left collide brutally in the street, as total chaos erupts. However, in the midst are some young Muslim men and women who bear some of the brunt of all the violence. A young man named Kane (Toby Wallace) and Stix (Kaden Hartcher) – two lads who served in the military together – jump in to help Farron, ingratiating themselves to the group’s leader.
And of course the media’s poking around after it is all over. Farid (Julian Maroun), with a smashed face, refuses to be on television, whereas Laila Taheer (Nicole Chamoun) agrees to talk on the news, unafraid.
Blake is left wondering how Antifasc knew they’d be protesting the Halal Festival. It comes out that Spider (Travis Cotton) left a digital trail for hackers to find, when they’d been keeping their event secret. Things get nasty, and it’s obvious to see that Mr. Farron rules out of fear, as it usually goes with these racist groups. They claim loyalty to one another, to their skin colour, and yet they’re always so quick to turn one each other. Big worry now is, Laila could become a target for Patriot Blue after being so visible on the news rightfully criticising them. Although Antifasc might hope to try and bend them to their will, too.
Nevertheless, Blake has some liquor with Kane and Stix, getting to know them, and he even recites a bit of “A Song of the Republic” by Henry Lawson. That’s all before he gets arrested. This leaves the boys with Zoe (Sophie Lowe) for a bit, and being the wife of a neo-Nazi leader can’t be easy.
“For me, the past isn‘t something out there in the ether. It‘s always close. Makes us what we are and who we are.”
Kane’s turning up in an obscured photograph online; Antifasc doesn’t recognise him, so they’re using a connection to academic McKew (Philip Hayden) to get the guy’s face out there. The newly minted fascist and his buddy Stix are kicking around Melbourne for now. They’ll fit right in with Patriot Blue, because they just seem to hate everybody.
It’s sad, and compelling, to see Farid going around with his broken face while people stare at him; particularly heartbreaking to see the fear of other people of colour looking at his injuries, versus the casual and often times aloof looks of white people. Worse still, he was attacked, and he’s being urged to take days off because he looks “disturbing” to people around the care home where he works. Farid rightly refuses to leave.
We see a girl named Cindi (Markella Kavenagh) who’s locked up in a juvenile detention centre. She has a real tough time, as well. One girl has it out for her, and Cindi just wants to escape. We find out Cindi is Kane’s stepsister; he goes to visit her and lets her know he’s got work coming. When Kane leaves, he calls Zoe for a job as instructed. I can already see that he’s going to do something very stupid with Mr. Farron’s wife, in some way.
Petra is in the same law class as Laila – taught by McKew, who hasn’t found anything on their mystery fascist. And the mystery man himself is already back over at the Farron house to see Zoe. He is incredibly bold, though she doesn’t pull away when he kisses her. She’s quite religious. But, being the wife of a white nationalist, she has to be full of contradictions anyway, right? So adulterous Christian isn’t exactly wild territory for her. Plus, she had a hard life – addiction, forced sex work, et cetera. She’s unsatisfied with her roided out husband’s lack of physical attention. Perhaps just having genuine emotional attention is enough for a woman who’s so long gone without affection from Blake.
In juvenile detention, Cindi pulls a fast one on the girl giving her trouble, and her friends throw the girl a blanket party before Cindi makes her grand escape over the barbed wire fence, out into the free world again.
Now Kane has it in his head to take the vengeance he believes Blake should have against the man who pimped Zoe out years ago; a fella named Eddy (Russell Frost). He goes out to the man’s house, and brutally beats the shit out of him. He takes a nice picture to show his new lady friend, too.
Gabrielle Jordan (Jacqueline McKenzie) heads to her car in the parking garage. When she gets in she gets a visit from Kane. He tells her: “I know who my father is.” Then he walks off again. Very curious. There’s some history here, obviously – Gabrielle is Kane’s mother. You should remember Gabe, from the original film; she fell in with Hando after running from her abusive father, Martin, who’s now in the care home where she visits. It’ll be fascinating to see all this play out. Many threads set to tangle together in between the plots and the characters here.
Romper Stomper is off to a good start. Disturbing, well paced+well written, some mystery, as well as the fact it’s totally relevant to our day and age, examining racial hatred and cultural tensions in Australia. Oh, and that score from Richard Pike? GOD DAMN! Plays with sounds from the original soundtrack of the film, and it’s so fitting.
“If Blood Should Stain the Wattle” is next.