Romper Stomper (TV)
R2 - United Kingdom - Acorn Media
Review written by and copyright: Rob Hunt (19th June 2018).
The Show

The 2018 Australian TV series of Romper Stomper is a belated (25 years later) sequel to the 1992 film of the same name - the directorial debut of director (and writer), Geoffrey Wright. Involved with the sequel as one of the writers and directors, Wright takes another look at the mix of racism, fascism, and the participants from each wing, as well as those who are caught up in the clashes that take place.

A timely choice of story to update a quarter of a century later, Romper Stomper infuses a fresh perspective on how the different factions have changed - skinheads being more or less a thing of the past, but nationalism remaining front and centre. In the 1992 film the racism was directed towards Vietnamese migrants to Australia; in the new TV series, the story revolves around those Australian citizens who are Muslim. Some familiar faces (for those who have seen the film) show up along the way, whilst a slew of new characters are introduced and explored across the six episodes. The episodes centre their stories on the anti-Islamic nationalist group, Patriot Blue, and the anti-fascist group Antifasc. Along the way there is deception, changes in relationships and even a blurring of the lines between left- and right-wing zealots, as both take matters into their own hands to combat who and what they perceive as the enemy.

Consisting of six episodes, the TV series starts out strong, dips a little in quality, and then builds again to a shocking conclusion. The series is well worth watching, but could perhaps have been reduced to a slightly shorter series. However, the advantage the TV medium has is in being able to tell a more involved story - there's a bit too much here to put into one or possibly even two films, so the TV series is a better fit.

Acorn Media have spread the series evenly across two discs, with the extra material wisely on the disc with the shorter episodes (although it only runs for about 20-25 minutes). The episode breakdown is as follows:

- "Arrival" (54:49)
- "If Blood Should Stain the Wattle" (55:11)
- "Poetry" (51:09)
- "The Dark Heart of Things" (51:13)
- "Chaos" (45:34)
- "Anabasis" (45:33)

Video

Each episode is presented in its original 1.78:1 widescreen aspect ratio at the original broadcast speed of 25fps PAL.

A recent production, the TV series of Romper Stomper has a strong image in SD PAL, although some wider shots look quite a bit softer than the equivalent HD broadcast image, which is clearly superior. Colours are for the most part very good, and detail, darker scenes and shadows hold up well. Directly comparing the discs to the HD broadcast, the discs obviously lose some of the finer detail due to the lower resolution, but also the discs appear marginally brighter. The discs also have a slightly warmer hue, making skin tones look a little less natural compared to the HD broadcast, but the difference is slight. Overall, a decent image with few complaints.

Audio

The series is presented with an English Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo track, which does the job well. There's a good chance that a full surround mix would have provided some added scope to some scenes (mainly the confrontation scenes), but what is provided is absolutely fine. As would be expected from a modern series, the track is clear and no issues are apparent.

Optional subtitles are included in English for the hard of hearing.

Extras

All of the extra material is on the second disc, and consists of six featurettes and a photo gallery. Each of the extras is presented in widescreen, and the featurettes are in English, with optional (English HoH) subtitles.

Kicking things off is "Romper Stomper Retrospective" (5:59), which takes a look at the genesis of the original film, the financing and controversy, and the critical response, before touching (very, very briefly) upon the challenge of bringing a similar story (this belated TV sequel) out now. The piece contains a number of interesting nuggets of information, but the whole thing is far too short at just under six minutes, and before it really gets going it comes to an end.

Following on from the retrospective, the remaining featurettes cover the TV series exclusively. "Creating the Story" (2:57) gives a broad overview, explaining how the stories the series covers have gained an even greater relevance given the social and political changes across the world, and is then followed by four featurettes that focus in on specific aspects. "The Cast" (4:47) sees the main actors discuss their roles, interspersed with behind-the-scenes footage of filming and clips from the series itself, as well as noting how an updated exploration of the issues of racism, fascism and violence for a new generation is important to keep the topics relatable. In "The Tribes" (3:12) the key cast members talk about each of their respective factions in the TV series. "The Stunts" (1:32) takes a look at the coordination and choreography of stunts, working out the end result and how it can be achieved. One of the more interesting featurettes, this too suffers from being far, far too short. The last featurette, "The World, Mood and Texture of Romper Stomper" featurette (3:56), sets the context and intentions for the TV series, discussing a variety of topics from how the set decoration was approached to the deliberately exaggerated visual look of the series. Somewhat annoyingly, the second half of this piece contains a lot of overlap with the previous 'stunts' featurette.

To round the disc off, there is a picture gallery that runs as a single-chapter video (1:09), consisting of 23 images from the show.

Packaging

Whilst packaging was not provided for this review, it is expected to be packaged in a 2-disc keep case.

Overall

A decent TV series follow on to the acclaimed Romper Stomper film, with some strong performances from the lead cast. Whilst at times a little on-the-nose, the issues covered are very much relevant topics for today and this series is commendable for not shying away from the ugliness of both the hard-right and the hard-left, and indeed how similar they are (an often uncomfortable truth for those of a more left-wing persuasion). This DVD set is a great way to watch the episodes, and whilst the supplemental features are fairly light (holding more of a 'press kit' feel to them), there are some interesting observations within. Recommended, especially if you are a fan of the 1992 film.

The Show: B Video: B+ Audio: B+ Extras: C+ Overall: B

 


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