The Movie Waffler New Release Review - THE JESUS ROLLS | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review - THE JESUS ROLLS

the jesus rolls review
Released from prison, Jesus Quintana takes a road trip with a friend.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: John Turturro

Starring: John Turturro, Bobby Cannavale, Audrey Tautou, Susan Sarandon, Christopher Walken, Jon Hamm, Pete Davidson

the jesus rolls poster

Remember that time when Charlie Sheen watched the gory Japanese horror movie Guinea Pig 2: Flower of Flesh and Blood and became so convinced it was a snuff film that he contacted the FBI? Well imagine, if you will, that rather than being repulsed by Guinea Pig 2, Sheen became so enamoured that he decided to remake the movie with a bunch of his celebrity pals. The result of such a misguided venture would probably look a lot like The Jesus Rolls, John Turturro's sixth feature film as director.

the jesus rolls review

The Jesus Rolls earns the rare distinction of being not only one of the worst sequels ever made, but one of the worst remakes. To be fair, calling it a sequel to the Coen Brothers' 1998 caper The Big Lebowski is a bit of stretch. Turturro reprises his scene-stealing role of Jesus Quintana, the bowling pederast, but that's the only connection his film has with the Coens'. Along with being a Lebowski spinoff, it's also a remake of Bertrand Blier's 1974 cult classic Going Places. Pondering the logistics of the conception of this film leads to a chicken and egg scenario. Did Turturro desperately want to reprise his role as Quintana and figured Blier's film provided the ideal narrative to insert the character into? Or did he want to remake Going Places but could only drum up the necessary funds if he agreed to return to the role of Quintana, so beloved by a generation of stoners?

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Following an intro in which Quintana is released from a stretch in prison for showing his penis to a young boy (a flashback explains how Quintana was an innocent party, the first of many cop-outs here), The Jesus Rolls follows the plot of Going Places beat for beat. Quintana immediately hooks up with an old ex-con buddy, Petey (Bobby Cannavale, an actor who can usually enliven the worst of movies with his presence, but not so here), and they set off on a campaign of mischief.

the jesus rolls review

In Blier's controversial original, Gérard Depardieu and Patrick Dewaere play a pair of contemptible assholes who embark on a misogyny fuelled crime spree across the less scenic areas of France. On its release, Anglo-Saxon critics failed to see the forest for the trees and dismissed it as an exercise in cheap shock tactics. Blier's film is actually a razor sharp, blackly comic takedown of a certain type of male, one who camouflages his insecurities by blaming the world, and women, for his ills, and its awful anti-heroes are always the butt (quite literally in one unforgettable scene) of the joke.

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I'm not sure if Turturro interpreted the film this way, as none of Blier's critique of what is now reductively labelled 'toxic masculinity' has survived the translation. The two male leads' interactions with women are now entirely consensual, and I get the impression Turturro wants us to view Quintana and Petey as a pair of loveable goofballs. There's a truly disturbing scene in Blier's film in which Depardieu harasses a young mother on a train, but in the corresponding scene here, the woman in question is African-American and Quintana simply pays her some cringey compliments, which she duly accepts. The ex-convict played with such eloquent melancholy by Jeanne Moreau is essayed here by Susan Sarandon, who just looks bemused throughout, as though neither she nor her director understood the tragic pathos of her character. The jailbait teen played by Isabelle Huppert is, no surprise, absent from this remake, because Turturro desperately wants you to forget that Quintana is a pederast.

the jesus rolls review

The Jesus Rolls is desperate not to offend its audience, except for its Latin contingent. Turturro's brownface schtick is an offensive relic of the past, and it's frankly amazing that a cast of supposedly liberal actors were willing to go along with this. A scene from Going Places in which Depardieu is tailed by a store detective who takes a dislike to his long hair takes on a new social context here, with a racist security guard harassing Quintana, but the scene comes off as hypocritical when the harassed Latino is being played by a white man. The action is accompanied by a cod-Latin score that brought back memories of playing Super Mario Kart. Latin viewers will likely recoil at The Jesus Rolls, but it's perhaps the French who should be most offended, given how Turturro has misinterpreted and mangled one of their greatest films.

The Jesus Rolls is in US/Canadian cinemas February 24th and UK/ROI cinemas March 20th.

2020 film reviews