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  Prayer of the Rollerboys What The Hell? On Wheels
Year: 1990
Director: Rick King
Stars: Corey Haim, Patricia Arquette, Christopher Collet, Julius Harris, Devin Clark, Mark Pellegrino, Morgan Weisser, Jake Dengel, G. Smokey Campbell, John P. Connolly, J.C. Quinn, Tim Eyster, Aron Eisenberg
Genre: Action, Science FictionBuy from Amazon
Rating:  3 (from 2 votes)
Review: It is the near future and society has gone downhill since the twentieth century, with the adult population dwindling and the youth making up gangs to roam the streets. No gang is more feared than the Rollerboys, a rollerblading neo-fascist organisation led by Gary Lee (Christopher Collet) who promises those who join him willl be given special privileges, but he would like one boy in particular to team up with him more than anyone. He is Griffin (Corey Haim), a pizza delivery boy who was Gary's childhood friend though they have since drifted apart. Griffin just wants to keep his kid brother Miltie (Devin Clark) safe, but Gary is not going to take that lying down...

The transition from child star to adult star is a tricky one, you just have to ask Corey Haim about that. Sure, he's been working steadily on front of the camera for decades, but since Prayer of the Rollerboys that work has been largely confined to the straight to video (or DVD) market; perhaps if he had made something else in 1990 that was an actual hit he might not have seen his standing fall, but maybe his time in the sun was finally drawing to a close. Still, there's always Crank: High Voltage. Way back when, however, Corey was able to command a name above the title status, which this film afforded him, and his fans from that time have stayed loyal.

This doesn't mean that Prayer of the Rollerboys was a neglected gem ripe for rediscovery - far from it, it was a dreary trudge through some post-apocalypse sci-fi devices that didn't even shell out for some decent Mad Max 2-style action sequences, so society in this had not fallen so far that pizza delivery was no longer an option, they simply put wire gauze over the windows of the van for protection. By this stage the whole eighties fad for depicting the world going to hell in a handbasket was looking pretty dated, even if it was all about our supposedly bleak future, and the main gimmick here - the rollerblades - was not enough to lift proceedings above yawn levels.

This all takes itself so thuddingly seriously that you half expect it to be an adaptation of passages from the Bible rather than a fashionably cynical, and in the end throwaway effort at rounding up the teen market and getting them to hand over their cash to the producers. Griffin finds himself in a very difficult position when the two rivals, the Rollerboys and the non-fascists, both want him on their side, but instead thanks to the feminine wiles of an undercover Patricia Arquette he opts to join the police as an informer. He's in a privileged position in that Gary Lee (or is it Neil Patrick Harris?) likes him, so the cops hope he will blab all his plans to Griffin and thereby provide evidence for an arrest.

Turns out that those Rollerboys have been up to no good, and are funding themselves by manufacturing and selling a superdrug called mist (obviously nobody bothers with heroin or cocaine in the future) - and Miltie is a user! A horrified Griffin agrees to join the gang to prevent any more of this narcotic hitting the streets, but the tension is meant to arise from us wondering whether he will get caught or not. That tension does dissipate quite a bit when you see the Rollerboys in action, as they dress in Dick Tracy overcoats with emblems on them and skate about the place in arm-swinging formation, making them look less intimidating and more like prize berks. Even the much-anticipated rollerblading that someone must have been watching this movie for is stingily doled out, leaving too much time for angst-ridden conversations. A slight air of camp aside, this is too dull for most. Music by Stacy Widelitz.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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