Prayer Of The RollerBoys (1990) – Nazi skaters, naff off!

It’s sometime in the future, approximately a couple of years after the environmental apocalypse, and due to overwhelming personal debt generated by the Baby-Boomers, America is now owned by a variety of other nations. Obviously, that makes no sense, but neither does a movie’s antagonists traveling by rollerblade; something that requires the kind of well-maintained streets and pavements post-collapse societies normally don’t offer. Still, this is not a movie that’s going to let such things get in the way of having a good time.

Our point-of-view character is Griffin, played by the less fortunate Corey; Corey Haim. As his parents left town for undisclosed reasons, he splits his days between stopping his young brother Militi (Devin Clark) develop a nu-cocaine habit, rollerblading, and delivering pizza to occupants of the residents of the homelessness internment camps dotted around L.A. If any of that makes you go “what the hell!?” then you wait till you hear about Harvard University being physically moved to Japan and the Vatican hiring the IDF to sort out Northern Ireland.
His main problem at the start of the film is his old buddy Gary Lee (Christopher Collet) trying to get him to join the Rollerboys; a neo-nazi in-line skates’ gang that has done so well from the exclusive license to sell the drug “Heaven Mist” that it’s now one of the most valuable corporations in the area. His problem then gets added to when he hooks up with Casey (Patricia Arquette), who is an undercover police officer out to entrap him into get dirt on the gang. The police would do it, but they just can’t afford the uniforms these days.
As you may have gathered, this film has a lot of ideas going on. At the front is a fairly standard bit of teen-friendly pop-cyberpunk setting, with a plot copied from the generic world of ex-gangster tales.  In the middle, we have some fairly interesting interpersonal drama and a lot of incredibly 80s fears about what the future will bring. Whilst at the back there is an incredibly well-researched tale of how neo-nazi gangs actually operate, how otherwise quite likable people succumb to their bullshit agendas, and how under all that race-hate it’s just a bunch of money-grabbing arseholes willing to trade on other people’s suffering.
Given all of that, you’d be forgiven for expecting it to be 95 minutes of bad hair and worse writing, but it all somehow manages to hold it together and make it worth a watch. The young cast gets stuck into the material, giving everything that 18-25 “everything I do will change the world!” energy, and the subtext and side-plots are incredibly well realised. Even the hamfisted “don’t be a nazi. Duh!” moments feel real and, in lives as bereft of real parental guidance as Lord Of The Flies, believable.
Throw in some excellent sets, skate-based stunts that were performed by the principal cast, and an unrelenting tempo that is happy to beat your dismissal to death with an unending stream of novelty, and it all works quite nicely. It is, on many levels, absolute twaddle and I’m not going to tell you otherwise. But it’s the kind you can enjoy because there is so much effort behind it you’d have to be heartless not to. It is also, undoubtedly by happenstance rather than foresight, quite relevant to the world we are in now and that adds a tidy little “oh, this is very silly and now I realise it’s only ten tins of hairspray away from the news” frisson.
As low-budget roller-skating sci-fi movies go, it’s one of the best, and it’s almost certainly an inspiration for such off-beat “youth” films as The FP and Rollerball 2002. More importantly, it’s a decent one to open up with friends and just enjoy. It’s never dull, it’s often far better than it should be, and you get to see a bunch of Nazis being brutalised.

The Raggeydman

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