In Prayer of the Rollerboys the United States economy has collapsed after previous generations gambled their future and lost. Most property in the US was sold to foreign investors and the profits of those sales went into mattresses or veins. In Los Angeles a well armed gang of inline skaters called The Rollerboys run the city, selling drugs and using the profits to buy back the land lost in “The Great Collapse”. A small contingent of good cops struggle to maintain order while trying to take down the Rollerboys and stop the spread of their designer drug ‘Mist’. Their secret weapon is Griffin played by Corey Haim who’s the former best friend of the Rollerboy Leader Gary Lee. With Griffin’s help the cops might just have a shot at ending the Mist epidemic and Griffin might have a chance to get out of the slums.
Prayer of the Rollerboys is a 90’s kid nostalgia buffet. It’s a world with powerful rollerblade gangs, where selling drugs makes you rich, pizza’s delivered every day, and sexy undercover cops seduce you! This isn’t a dystopia it’s a preteen dreamworld! The lord-of-the-flies teenage utopia is one of my favorite 90’s movie tropes. Look at the places the ‘cool’ kids hang out in movies like Hackers, Richie Rich, and The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles! With their hacker arcades, in-home McDonalds, and ninja-skatepark with unlimited cigarettes respectively. What better way to convince impressionable youths that your movie is ‘cool’ then by showing them a fantasy world full of their favorite indulgences suggested by focus groups and corporate partners. I’m never disappointed when one of these cliche’s pops up in a new-old movie because it brings me back to a time when I wasn’t yet 10 and expected to hang out in places like that when I ‘grew up’. Any day now.
I didn’t know Prayer of the Rollerboys existed before finding it on VHS at Goodwill last year. I’m grateful that I did because I’m one of the few lucky people I know who still owns a VCR. It’s an archaic device that allows us to time travel back to the home video boom on the 80s and 90s. Back then there was no content too niche or too short to be mass produced on magnetic strip video cassettes and shipped worldwide. Many of those tapes still exist in the present and can be found at thrift stores where you can purchase them for pocket change. Back then movies could be total box-office bombs and still find a huge audience in video rental stores where they could still turn a profit. That meant every movie got a home video release no matter how poorly they did in theaters. This trend continued through advancements in home video technology like DVD but by the time Blu-Ray became the standard it had to compete with the emergence of streaming video services like Netflix leaving many obscure titles unrestored and unavailable on a higher quality format making them all but lost… unless you have a time machine and some quarters.
Cue the Indiana Jones music. Whip pan to a backlit closeup of a high-crowned, wide-brimmed sable fedora being adjusted on the head of a person whose face is just out of frame. Hardcut to a hand clutching an N95 mask then dolly back showing the behatted and bemasked figure walking into a Value Village. This could be you! It’s sometimes me, if my bullwhip would ever get back from the cleaners, but back to you! You could go to thrift stores and buy a VCR and scour the tapes for gold like Prayer of the Rollerboys! There’s gold in them there stores, you’ve just got to be brave enough to find it! It happened to me it could happen to you!