Review: ‘The Jesus Rolls’ barrels down the fast and loose lane Special

Posted Feb 28, 2020 by Sarah Gopaul
‘The Jesus Rolls’ is a spin-off of ‘The Big Lebowski,’ centring on the outspoken bowler, Jesus Quintana’s, return to crime immediately after being paroled.
A scene from  The Jesus Roll s
A scene from 'The Jesus Roll's
Screen Media
As supplementary characters and supporting artists fill the screen, it’s uncommon for them to become the centre of attention. After all, their role is to help the protagonist(s) propel the story forward, not lead the way. But as actors prepare for these parts, no matter how big or small, it’s possible they create an extensive back story and character arc. Consequently, they may develop an attachment to this personality they nurtured even if their overall contribution to the film is minimal. Twenty-two years ago, John Turturro played an unhinged bowler with a foul-mouth and perfect form. He’s now returned to that character, writing and directing The Jesus Rolls.
Jesus Quintana (Turturro) just got out of prison, where he gained the warden’s (Christopher Walken) favour by leading their bowling league to victory. Awaiting him outside is his former cellmate, Petey (Bobby Cannavale). In spite of getting out early for good behaviour, he steals a vintage car within the first few hours of his release. This joyride is the first crime in a spree that lasts an indeterminate amount of time. Along the way, they’re joined by Marie (Audrey Tautou), a hairdresser with whom they form a healthy threesome. They meet various characters as they steal their way across the state with no destination or goal beyond staying out of jail.
Jesus only appeared in small sections of The Big Lebowski, but he had a big personality. While he certainly made an impression on audiences, he obviously had an impact on Turturro. Outside of his bowling skills and clarifying how the character got onto the sex offender registry, the film makes almost no reference to the movie that bore him. This is instead a standalone adventure in which Jesus does and takes whatever he pleases, from money to cars to… a shopping cart. He’s a surprisingly positive and passionate man, though he has a short temper and is not afraid to wield a gun when required.
The narrative is built on dialogue as characters with different backgrounds collide in this crazy adventure of sex and crime. Jesus is a talker, cursing frequently and generally saying what’s on his mind. But he’s a romantic and has a poetic way of expressing himself on occasion. Marie also enjoys conversation and won’t be left out of anything for any reason. Petey tends to rant and complain, balancing Jesus’ positivity. Other personalities include a pompous hairdresser (Jon Hamm), Jesus’ prostitute mother (Sônia Braga), a mechanic (J.B. Smoove) and a newly released con (Susan Sarandon). But every line by anyone is delivered with such feeling, it’s impossible to ignore.
Director: John Turturro
Starring: John Turturro, Bobby Cannavale and Audrey Tautou