Wednesday, June 25, 2014

B-Movie Review: "Prayer of the Rollerboys" (1990)

It's an early 1990s, no-budget post-apocalyptic sci-fi skatesploitation flick about white supremacist roller bladers, who can only be stopped by COREY HAIM. And believe it or's freaking awesome.

The late 1980s and early 1990s were definitely the heyday of great, politically conscious, independent sci-fi movies. While films like "Hardware" and even "The Class of 1999" have since gone on to become minor cult classics, the flick "Prayer of the Rollerboys" remains an ultra-obscure offering, seemingly forgotten by time itself. And it's a pity, too, because the movie is actually pretty damn great, standing out as one of the best-written, and best-acted, no-budget, Game Boy-punk films from the era.

The film begins with a rollerblading montage, which is contrasted by the visage of Rollerboys ringleader Gary Lee on an old CRT television set. While young whippersnappers watch his video in rapt awe, he drones on and on about how their greedy parents caused the "Great Crash" by over-borrowing; just keep in mind folks, this film came out SEVENTEEN years before Lehman Brothers bite the big one. We watch a bunch of street urchins digging through dumpsters and selling old coffee makers on the street. "Forget your parents," the mysterious Gary Lee tells the impressionable youths via the magic of VCR. In a world where "alien forces" control the US and kids are routinely ushered into relocation camps, he assures us "the Day of the Rope is coming." The video pans out, and Mr. Lee is seen rocking your standard late '80s power suit. 

After that, we're introduced to Griffin, who is played by Corey Haim. He's a pizza delivery boy, who carries an AK-47 with him to drop off calzones in what is tantamount to a Southern California warzone. When he's not risking life and limb to provide others with breadsticks, he likes to hang out with Casey (played by Patricia Arquette) and his younger brother Milton at a scummy bicycle repair shop, which is owned by an old black gentleman named "Speedbag." 

From straight-to-video superstar to selling his own teeth on eBay in just ten years. Tis a pity, Haimster.

En route to his latest delivery at the local concentration camp, we see homeless folks on the street, watching television while sucking down a new wave drug called "Mist." Griff takes time out of his schedule to rescue some kids from a burning house, where an impromptu gun fight unfurls. The police show up and rough him up a bit, and the pizza chain owner is none too pleased that Griffy-boy messed the company van up so badly. 

While doing some recreational bladin' in a not-that-deserted parking lot, Griff runs (err, skates) into the Rollerboys, with Gary Lee telling him that he's now under the group's "protection." 

The next day, a brand new van shows up at Griff's workplace, which makes the company owner -- who looks JUST LIKE Carl from "Aqua Teen Hunger Force -- very ecstatic. Meanwhile, on a random newscast, we learn that Harvard has, brick-by-brick, been relocated to Hiroshima, while scores of US workers have just been deported out of Mexico. 

Then, the Rollerboys visit Speedbag's shop, and warn him about paying them their tributes. Griff then attends an official Rollerboy soiree, which involves lots of Jell-O wrestling and Nine Inch Nails. Casey tries to seduce Griff into getting her some Mist, but he then winds up getting chased down by some undercover cops, which leads to a gang infiltration discussion with the po-po chief. 

These two guys are EASILY the whitest white supremacists in history.

As it turns out, Casey is actually an undercover cop herself, who is trying to get to the bottom of the whole Mist distribution racket. Oh, and its made explicit to us that the Rollerboys are also hardcore white supremacists, although all of them have shockingly Michael Bolton-esque coifs for alleged Neo-Nazis. 

After Milton sells drugs to a wealthy Japanese businessman (I guess if the film was remade today, it would be a Han investment banker instead) a truck chase/shootout unfurls, with Griff being saved by one of the Rollerboys. Fearing for Milton's life, Griff agrees to become a mole for the police; at the Rollerboys palatial mansion hideout, we learn that Germany just bought Poland and that the Israeli Defense Force helped Ireland with their little IRA problem. 

As part of the Rollerboy initiation rites, Griff has to safely blade through a militarized zone. Of course, Griff bests another recruit, whom is then promptly shot by Gary for failing "the test." The gang then holds a huge swearing-in ceremony, where Gary goes on and on about "The Day of the Rope." 

The Rollerboys visit Griff's pizza shop, and rough up the owner. We then learn that the Rollerboys operate a mobile soup kitchen, where they hand out propaganda in the form of comic books. Apparently, they also have investments in municipal bonds and power plants, too. Griff and Gary then drive through an old naval yard, which is now the gang's secret bae for cooking up drugs. Gary tells Griff that plant security guards have excellent pension plans, and that if he sticks around long enough, he'll give him yen to attend college. 

Knowing that Griff istight  in with the Rollerboys, Speedbag makes him move his RV off his front lawn. And then, much to Griff's dismay, he finds his younger bro stoned out of his mind on Mist. Then Gary and Casey talk about the sting operation, and Casey's back-up make bets on whether or not she'll put out (she doesn't.)

Following a camp raid, Casey tells Griff about how her brother joined the gang and got killed. Then, Milton gets popped on a drug test (yes, this is a straight-edge white supremacist organization we appear to be dealing with) and Speedbag does a soliloquy on the allure of evil.
Then the Rollerboys beat the crap out of a masked victim, and what do you know, it's Speedbag himself!

...but yeah, they'seen worse. Both of them

So Griff and Milton decide to escape, and Griff finally lays Casey. One of the Rollerboys, named Bullwinkle, finds out that Griff is mole, but before he can waste him, Casey's back up storms in and blows him away. 

In the next scene, Gary quizzes Griff about Bullwinkle's death, and offers him a position as a kitchen cook at the naval yard. Then, it's revealed what the "Day of the Rope" actually is; a non-disclosed, yet upcoming, date in which the gang starts pumping a special variation of the drug with chemically castrating properties into the city streets. Cue a drug cooking montage (complete with five-year-olds getting their fix) as undercover cops snake their way into the compound. Gary and his cooking partner get into a duel to the death, and its revealed that Casey's back-up cops are corrupt as fuck. Of course, the real cops then show up and start pumping everybody full of lead, with Gary ultimately deciding to take Milton as a hostage. With a pistol at his side, Gary tries to make a getaway, while Griff chases after him on his roller skates -- making the film's denouement, more or less, a live action version of the final stage in "Skate or Die 2."

And so, Gary is apprehended, while Griff, Milton, Casey and Speedbag decide to hitch up their RV and move to the Pacific Northwest. Meanwhile, Gary -- whose jail cell has its own accountant -- continues to run the gang from inside the slammer, with his first business move as incarcerated CEO being the expansion of services guessed it...the Pacific Northwest. And...fade to black

While the film ends on an obvious sequel hook, we're sadly still waiting for "Prayer of the Rollerboys 2" to come to fruition. Despite picking up a nod for best sci-fi movie at the 1990 Saturn Awards (in addition to non-stop airings at 3 in the morning on Cinemax for a good part of the 1990s), the film never really attained cult status, which is a shame, since it truly is one of the more inventive little genre pics to come out in the post-Reagan, pre-Clinton dead zone. 

The flick was directed by a guy named Rick King, who is probably best known for directing a couple of the "Kickboxer" movies. The script was ironed out by a guy named W. Peter Iliff, who in addition to having the most UFC-sounding name of any non-UFC fighter ever, is also responsible for writing a whole shit load of movies, such as "Point Break," "Patriot Games" and "Varsity Blues." 

As far as the bit players are concerned, not too many people (except for Patricia Arquette) really went on to have much a career after this. Mark Pellegrino, who played dope kitchen cook Bongo, was in "The Big Lebowski" and "National Treasure," which, yes, is a MUCH better post-"Rollerboys" filmography than Haim's. And if Gary looks oddly familiar to you, he should: the actor's name is Chris Collet, and holy hell, he played Paul in the first "Sleepaway Camp" movie!

I really can't say enough good things about this movie. It's smart, sharp, and fairly gripping, without ever becoming too full of itself or reaching beyond its straight-to-video capabilities. It has a script that's way more intelligent than it had any right to be and the acting is definitely far above average for a genre flick from the era. "Prayer of the Rollerboys" is really the best kind of B-movie, the kind that surprises you with its authenticity and competency. Regardless of its lowly genre ambitions, this is a great B-movie that comes dangerously close to being a flat out great movie in its own right. 

Three and a half stars. Jimbo definitely says check it out. 


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