May 25, 2020  (Web Review)

The Jesus Rolls

Screen Media Films, 85 mins., R, DVD: $24.99, Blu-ray: $25.99, May 5

Reviewer rating: 2.0/4

Actor John Turturro’s latest effort as a writer-director and star of his own movie, The Jesus Rolls, has an unusual pedigree. Turturro’s lead character, Jesus Quintana, was introduced in Joel and Ethan Coen’s beloved classic The Big Lebowski. Quintana was a minor but memorably funny figure in the Coens hit, and Turturro decided to bring him back for a sort-of sequel to Lebowski, but with an added twist. The Jesus Rolls turns out to be an adaptation of Bertrand Blier’s 1974 French dramedy Going Places, a raunchy and sometimes tasteless farce about two whimsical thugs who go on the lam, alternately being charming and awful. The Jesus Rolls softens the shock factor of Going Places, which works against Turturro’s version by blurring the extreme amorality of Blier’s daring work. That leaves The Jesus Rolls as a mostly silly experience lacking a dark context. Turturro follows the misadventures of ex-con Quintana and his pal Petey (Bobby Cannavale) as they steal cars, hop a train, pick up a despairing woman (Susan Sarandon) just exiting prison, rob a hairdressing salon and a doctor, set up a guy to be killed in his own vehicle, and form a little sexually-charged family with Qunintana’s friend Marie (Audrey Tatou). The episodic, road movie feel of the film largely comes across as choppy and forced, though the cast is very good, and the core trio of Quintana, Petey and Marie do exude a collective warmth that makes one hope nothing bad happens to them. There are some nice cameos that add a little luster to the proceedings: Christopher Walken, Jon Hamm, Pete Davidson, J. B. Smoove, Tim Blake Nelson and Sonia Braga. Overall, The Jesus Rolls is a watchable if not particularly satisfying experience. Lightly recommended. (T. Keogh)