There is a rolodex filled with interesting characters introduced to us by Joel & Ethan Coen, The Coen brothers: H.I. played by Nicolas Cage in Raising Arizona, Anton Chigurh played by Javier Bardem in No Country For Old Men or Marge Gunderson played by Frances McDormand in Fargo. My personal favorite would have to be The Dude played by Jeff Bridges in The Big Lebowski; the film itself also boasts a strong supporting cast with John Goodman, Steve Buscemi and Philip Seymour Hoffman. It is hard to deny though that the show stealer is “The Jesus” played by John Turturro who only appears for a few minutes. Turturro fell in love with the character so much that twenty two years later he has stepped back in the purple loafers to portray Jesus Quintana in The Jesus Rolls which he also wrote and directed.
The Coen brothers gave Turturro the permission to expand on their character and with that we are given a deeper understanding into who “The Jesus” really is. The film itself is a remake of the 1974 French film Going Places written and directed by Bertrand Blier who also wrote the novel it was inspired from entitled “Les Valseuses”. For those expecting a film similar to The Big Lebowski will have to alter their expectations since the Coen brothers had zero involvement with this film. Add in the fact this is a remake and the story has already been outlined: a trio of comical, delinquent criminals getting into hijinks; adding in The Jesus character simply gives us a baseline of the ridiculousness. The timeline of the film’s events take place before The Big Lebowski and shows Jesus just after getting released from prison. We are however given insight into the story Goodman’s character references in The Big Lewbowski where Jesus went to prison for exposing himself to a child being labeled a sex offender. There is also the treat of Turturro using the Gipsy Kings in the film whose music was also used in The Big Lebowski.
Those references aside this film is a fun, wild ride all its own. Jesus is immediately greeted by his friend Petey played by Bobby Cannavale (The Irishman, Ant-Man) who is waiting outside the prison walls. Within minutes both men steal a car for a joyride and with that we already get to know who Jesus is… a guy with zero fucks. It does not matter that he literally just walked out of prison or that he is on parole The Jesus does what he wants. Cannavale’s chemistry with Turturro is immediate both playing off each other like two goofball kids. Upon returning their stolen joy ride they come upon the third part of their trio in Marie played by Audrey Tautou (Amélie). Tautou’s performance is a standout as an innocent beautician, who has no sexual inhibitions and is up for anything albeit her one minor condition that she is unable to cum. Any time Tautou is on the screen there is a frantic childlike energy that is infectious. The film follows the three “criminals” as they hop from stolen car to stolen car to each small adventure. By the end of the film I was having so much fun with these characters I did not want it to end. Their manic, impulsive, sexually obsessed escapades are quite the departure from today’s films and it was an even bigger case when the original film was released over forty years ago.
The Jesus Rolls also boasts quite a supporting cast with Christopher Walken, Jon Hamm, J.B Smoove, Susan Sarandon and Pete Davidson. Each character is introduced along our trio’s travels and playout like small episodes. By the film’s end I do not think we get any better knowledge about who Jesus is rather than he is a character all himself. Much like The Dude was someone who was “takin’ it easy for all us sinners” I like to think that The Jesus is the other side of the coin. He’s not necessary a bad guy, he does not want to hurt anyone, he just handles things his own, unique “Jesus” way where regular folks like us would not think twice about doing anything of the sort. As much as this film is a complete remake of another film I believe these exploits perfectly encapsulate what kind of person Jesus Quintana is and I would love to go another round, pendejo.
Unfortunately, the only extra on the DVD release is commentary with John Turturro and Bobby Cannavale. Listening to the commentary you get a sense of the comradery between the two who have worked together in the past. You really get to hear the admiration Turturro had for Blier’s novel and film; and why he felt the need to remake it. Both men share fun stories and insights from filming including the awkwardness of shooting an erotic three-way with their friend Susan Sarandon. Throughout the commentary they also discuss their love for co-star Audrey Tautou and how special she was in her performance. It is evident throughout the commentary they made the film on a small budget with limited days and had to make the most with what they had but as Turturro admits that does not necessarily mean they sacrificed anything.
3.5 out of 5
DVD will be available Tuesday May 5th
Also available via Streaming/VOD Platforms