By Owen Gleiberman
Updated July 16, 1993 at 04:00 AM EDT

The vicious young neo-Nazi skinheads in ROMPER STOMPER (NC-17), a low-budget feature from Australia, are hate junkies on the warpath. Terrorizing the local Asian immigrants (the movie is set in Melbourne), they turn life into a brawl because brawling is the only thing that has an impact on their nervous systems. Brainless aggression is the one high they have left. Early on, a group of them set upon a trio of Vietnamese and proceed to pound heads and draw blood. The scene becomes an orgy of malice, the camera dancing along in an angry frenzy. For a while, Romper Stomper is a brutal, nihilist bash. Yet director Geoffrey Wright isn’t without his softer commercial instincts as well. What begins as a real-life Clockwork Orange quickly segues into a skinhead James Dean movie, a kind of Aryan Without a Cause. Wright arranges his three principal characters into a conventional teen- exploitation love triangle. There’s the proud, good-looking Hando (Russell Crowe), an imperious rebel with a thick black skeleton tattooed all the way up one arm; his right-hand thug, Davey (Daniel Pollock), whose shorn locks only emphasize the doleful sensitivity of his puppyish stare; and Gabe (Jacqueline McKenzie), a nubile waif on the run from an incestuous relationship with her rich father. As an expose of the new wave of racist youth-gang violence, Romper Stomper lacks depth, psychology, a sense of social background. Yet Wright’s flagrant attempt to humanize his skinheads-to turn them into bona fide movie characters-is, in its way, dramatic and vaguely honorable. There’s something touching in the very banality of the film’s romantic rivalries (including one with homoerotic overtones), as if, for all their fascist freak trappings, these punk bigots couldn’t escape their own humanity. B