"`Rollerboys' Keeps Things Moving"
August 30, 1991
If you're not expecting too much, "Prayer of the Rollerboys" (citywide) is more amusing and diverting than you might expect. A typical teensploitation film, made very much on a budget for an audience too young to vote, it does manage to come up with both a vivid visual sense and a clever satiric premise. What it lacks in terms of plot (comic book all the way) and acting (indifferent at best), it just about manages to make up for in spunky kinetic pizzaz.
More than anything else, "Rollerboys" is reminiscent of those feisty low-budget exploitation films of the 1950s and '60s produced by folks like Roger Corman and Samuel Z. Arkoff for American International Pictures. And it is AIP's 1968 "Wild in the Streets," a tale of youthful fascists run amok, that seems to be this film's major inspiration.
The time, naturally, is the future. "Our parents," says a handsome, insinuating blonde on a TV screen, "caused the great crash. They were consumed by greed. They borrowed more money than they could ever repay. Alien races foreclosed on our nation. We were locked in homeless camps. We need a new family. A family that cares. The Rollerboys care."
If that sounds at least partially familiar, credit screenwriter W. Peter Iliff for coming up with a vision of a chaotic future that is amusingly based on the troubles of the present. Periodic news bulletins tell us that Germany has bought Poland, that American workers have been pouring across the border to work illegally in Mexico, and that Harvard University has not only been bought by the Japanese, it has been moved to the Far East brick by hallowed brick.
Gary Lee (Christopher Collet) claims he wants to stop all this. Gary Lee is the presence on the TV screen, the smooth-talking sinister leader of the Rollerboys, a youth gang with a program-and a sense of style. Dressed in black (except for long white dusters) and shod in Rollerblade skates, the Rollerboys are a slick aggregation if ever there was one. Not only do they have the lock on distributing Mist, a fluorescent green substance that is the world's current drug of choice, they also own buildings, make foreign investments and clearly are headed toward running the entire world.
There is one man/boy who can stop them, and that is Griffin (Corey Haim), alternately known to his pals as Griff, Griffer and Griffster. By any name, he is one mean skating dude, and just happens to "go way back" with Rollerboy capo de tutti capi Gary Lee. Can he be convinced to stop the madness? Can he get it on with a local looker named Casey (Patricia Arquette)? Can he save Miltie, his dweeb of a little brother (Devin Clark), from the dangers of the Mist? Can you pass the popcorn, please?
What "Rollerboys" (rated R for violence, language, sensuality and drug content) lacks in profundity it makes up with in movement. The constant Rollerblading (Haim apparently did a lot of his own stunt work and found the experience "awesome") is bracing to watch and director Rick King and cinematographer Phedon Paramichael know just how to shoot it.
King and Paramichael have also combined to give "Rollerboys" a clean, exciting, visual look. They not only make good use of local locations like Venice Beach and the Vincent Thomas Bridge, they bring an adrenalized pulp vigor to the entire picture, catching and holding the eye with everything from a midnight bazaar of women to phalanxes of cool Rollerboys skating in formation, their long coats billowing in the wind. "Prayer of the Rollerboys" may lack a lot in terms of current polish and sophistication, but watch out for these guys in the future.