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Razor Eaters
cast: Richard Cawthorne, Teague Rook, Fletcher Humphreys, and Paul Moder

director: Shannon Young

96 minutes (18) 2003
widescreen ratio 2.35:1
ILC DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 1/10
reviewed by Jim Steel
Yes, 1/10. If the soundtrack hadn't been running the best part of a second ahead of the visual component of the film, then it would have rated maybe a 4/10. There is a second disc of bonus features where the problem is less pronounced, but it still makes for an unpleasant viewing experience. When Zack and his droogs are committing the ol' ultraviolence to a blasting punk rock soundtrack, then the problem isn't really noticeable, but it's still there nonetheless. The two discs look like retail editions rather than merely preview copies, so all I can suggest is that you test before you buy.

It's a pity, because this is an intriguing film. It's a low budget independent, but it mostly turns the budget restrictions upside down with an unusual approach. It starts with jaded cop Danny Berdan (Paul Moder) sitting down to watch a collection of videotapes that were filmed over the course of a week by a gang of rampaging hoodlums called the Razor Eaters. Moder does not feel like a man who wears a suit every day and he fails to convince. The Razor Eaters, fortunately, are portrayed with much more conviction. Confident and muscular skinhead Zach is the charismatic and articulate leader, and he is played with real verve by Richard Cawthorne, who comes across as someone who is very comfortable in his own body and he owns the screen every time that he turns up in the film.

More recently he has gone on to have a run in Neighbours, which somehow seems a bit of a waste. Then there is Roger (Fletcher Humphreys) who is the laughing psychopath. He's less immediate a character than Zach, but if anything even more believable. Teague Rook plays Orville, a public schoolboy gone bad, who is the technical wizard of the gang. He makes the bombs. Anthony (Campbell User) is the youngest member and the nearest thing to a conscience in the gang. The fifth member is Rob, the cameraman, who is played by writer and director Shannon Young. It may make Young the ultimate auteur, but the character is almost non-existent which leads to a lopsided feel to the whole exercise.

Apparently based on the exploits of a real-life Melbourne gang called the Hedge Burners who also videoed their own exploits, the films shows the gang attacking and killing drug-dealers and other lowlifes. It's not mentioned in the film, but a resemblance to the more extreme straightedge punks is very much in evidence. This was an American movement that abstained from drink and drugs and who were known to administer punishment beatings to people in the street for committing such grievous misdemeanours as smoking. It is hinted that several of the gang have lost family and friends to drugs. They also give a traffic warden a good beating, and a couple of youths who play their car stereo too loud are also kidnapped and punished. And so on. Unlike Michael Douglas' character in Falling Down, they are not taking the viewer on a journey through his own morality. One always has the feeling that the Razor Eaters are not going to cross the threshold and have us rooting for the cops. Berdan himself, the film makes clear, is not beyond committing the odd act of brutality as a means to an end. Of course, it is quite apparent that the end here will be ugly.

As Berdan watches the footage, he is annoyed to find out how close he was to the gang at several points during the week, and they mock him from the screen. The screen footage is frequently tarted up with a punk/ metal soundtrack that removes the feeling of vérité but adds to the adrenaline. You get the feeling that Young has seen Natural Born Killers on more than one occasion. There is an intriguing po-mo scene when the gang, relishing the media coverage and the adulation, go to collect a box of Razor Eater t-shirts that an acquaintance has made up. They refuse to pay him as they know that he'll sell many more of the back of their notoriety, and after they leave he jubilantly sticks a poster in his window announcing that his store has been robbed by the Razor Eaters. And, naturally, the filmmakers would be hoping for some great merchandising spin-offs. Neat, eh?

The climax is a big disappointment, which is a surprise as it worked so well in The Usual Suspects. The film as whole is worthwhile, but that out-of-synch soundtrack just kills it as a fun experience. This release comes with a bonus disc that is just packed with goodies. There is a fascinating 74-minute 'making of' documentary that goes into the creators' previous films and the various problems that they had during production. They wisely decided to shoot it in one go, which means that the crime spree really does feel as if it happened over the space of a single week. Then there's Fletcher Humphrey's 32-minute video diary, which doesn't really add much, a three-minute special effects mini feature, 38 minutes of deleted and extended scenes (some of which would have put a whole different spin of the film if they had been used), and a Razor Blade rock video.

One of the actors says on the second disc that the film really must be seen on the big screen, and I fear that he might be right. On the small screen we get the impression that the crew and actors are having more fun than the viewer.
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