Australian cinema has put out some provocative films over the past few years. Films like CHOPPER or Mark Savage’s underground flicks DEFENCELESS and SENSITIVE NEW-AGE KILLER. But even in the extremity of those last two productions those films have been missing that certain immediacy that seemed set to explode off the screen back in 1992 when Geoffery Wright and Russell Crowe stormed across the pacific and landed ROMPER STOMPER into the laps of an unsuspecting American audience. The truth is, when I saw ROMPER STOMPER during its theatrical run, I really hadn’t seen anything like it in terms of violence. It was a film that arrived at almost precisely the same time as Quentin Tarantino’s RESERVIOR DOGS and the French film MAN BITES DOG. Combined, those 3 films blew independent cinema out of the water with regards to extreme violence on screen. It would only be a scant few years before U.S. screens everywhere were inundated with TRUE ROMANCE, TRAINSPOTTING and Oliver Stone’s NATURAL BORN KILLERS. The French went on to bring us IRREVERSIBLE, BAISE-MOI and all manner of new millennium torture films from FRONTIER(S) to HAUTE TENSION. But what happened in Australia? Well we’re about to find out.
RAZOR EATERS isn’t really a new film. It’s almost 5-years old at this point. But it’s finally making its way to DVD here in the states. The film is really an Australian version of NATURAL BORN KILLERS. It tells a tale loosely based on The Hedge Burners gang, which terrorized the Melbourne area committing a series of crimes and videotaping their exploits. In the film, the Razor Eaters are committed to “Organize, Traumatize, and Immortalize” and are lead into suburban battle by their leader Zach (Richard Cawthorne). Their goal is total anarchy, book deals, T-shirts, fan clubs, and copycat killers—nothing less than full-frenzied media exploitation and pop culture immortality. Their victims are Drug Runners, Bad Drivers, Arms Dealers, Egomaniacal Soccer Stars and Corrupt Politicians. They’re modern day demon Robin Hoods being lead about by Zach—who seems to be channeling Robert Carlyle’s TRAINSPOTING performance as Begbie into a whole other realm of sheer madness. The public is split on their support of the Razor Eaters leaving Police Detective Danny Berdan (Paul Moder) even more at a loss as to how to apprehend these maniacs who are actually ridding his streets of Heroin Pushers and Gun Runners.
At its gut, the story of RAZOR EATERS is compelling in its hyperactive vigilantism. The character of Zach is a lightening rod of charisma and it’s easy to see how he can work a throng of disaffected youth into a furious crowd of fans while shooting off an AK-47 just as easily as he convinces his friends to start a murderous rampage while spouting quotes from Robert Kennedy, blaming Australia for making them the way they are and lamenting that his country has no Capone or Krays or Trenchcoat Mafia to elevate. Zach is a modern day Charlie Manson, only Zach has no problem getting his hands dirty.
Most of the film is told in retrospect as Detective Berdan pieces together the group’s weeklong reign of terror as told through the amateur video they shot themselves and store surveillance camera footage of their atrocities. This jerky, Vérité, hand-held style makes the film even more gritty and urgent and Writer/Director Shannon Young uses the guerilla style to more than make up for the films budget shortfalls. In fact, considering all the artillery that the Razor Eaters are packing, it would appear that Young and his crew spent every available penny on Pyrotechnics, Squibs and Bullet Ridden Cars. It’s an orgy of gunplay and fireworks the likes of which most low-budget filmmakers never even attempt and coupled with the superior acting on display from Cawthorne it raises the bar on what could have been just another wannabe-gangster-flick into a full metal meltdown of blown up buildings, blown away bystanders and scene-stealing scenery chewing.
If you’re looking for a film that’s as vicious in it’s assessment of society as it is in it’s dispatching of victims then RAZOR EATERS is going to be right up your alley. If you’re looking for a film with easy answers and clear cut heroes and villains, you’re looking at the wrong DVD. Whether or not the RAZOR EATERS are the winners or the losers, when the final credits crawl is a matter of opinion. That Young doesn’t feel the need to provide you those simple answers is a matter of integrity. If you think that by watching a film like this, you’re actually buying into the idea that we live in a society where the worst aspects of humanity are endlessly sensationalized by the media, then you’re probably right on the money. You decide.