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ROLLOVER
1981
Written by Howard Kohn, David Weir & David Shaber and directed by Alan J. Pakula
118 Minutes
Rated R

I should preface this review of this very obscure eighties movie by pointing out that this film isn't the kind of movie I'd intentionally seek out. I've been trying to peg my father's taste in movies for years with no success. Slither, which I put on for the hell of it, seemed to keep his attention well. Super Troopers, which I would've sworn up and down he'd love, was met with derision. Likewise, his suggestions for me have been hit and miss. Dragonfly was a couple of hours I'll never get back and bad enough in my book to make me swear off his suggestions forever, but Lord of War - which he'd been raving about and even watched twice in one rental, something he never does - wound up being at least as good as he said and maybe more so. And let's be realistic: as viewers, we'll sit through ten Dragonflys if it means we'll get one Lord of War.

And that's how I came to see Rollover. My dad's big into finance and the stock market, and films like Boiler Room and Wall Street appeal very much to him for that (and probably also because they're good films), and when I was talking to him about figuring out his taste in film, he mentioned Rollover. I'd never heard of it, and neither have you. Hell, on IMDb it's only got two reviews. Until now at least.

Rollover is a movie that has pieces that work and pieces that don't. It's a hodgepodge of good and bad ideas (the composer should've been fired), with stilted scenes (Kris Kristofferson and Jane Fonda's first kiss comes to mind) and a plot that is, frankly, almost impenetrable to the casual viewer. However, like Tomie, another movie I respect for its attention to detail, Rollover will reward the patient and astute viewer. If you can sift through the convoluted plotting - the usual betrayals, manipulations, and awkward love stories that come with a formula thriller - you'll get something that surprisingly is rarely if ever seen in a film. If Idiocracy was damned to languish in obscurity for its unflattering portrayal of its sponsors, you've gotta wonder if something similar might not have happened to Rollover, which at its core does one better than a scathing indictment of the banking industry: it exposes how fragile and in some cases ludicrous world economics actually are.

Unfortunately, getting to that wicked final fifteen minutes means jumping through some hoops, but you're not alone on this journey, and if the film itself bores you there are enough curiosities to keep you going. For me, they were:

Hume Cronyn pre-*batteries not included, being kind of a dick.

A young Kris Kristofferson who ironically still sounds exactly the same today. If you're used to seeing him circa Blade trilogy, this movie will blow your fucking mind.

An extraordinarily racist depiction of Arab peoples.

An unusually progressive casting of an Asian woman in a role that calls for neither an Asian nor a woman.

Character acting stalwart Bob Gunton in his first screen role. No, really, check out his filmography. I'll wait. See! You knew you saw that name before!

Jane Fonda. Kids in my generation know virtually nothing about this woman, who vanished from the screen for a decade and a half until Monster-in-Law, but she was a big deal for our folks. And yes, this is the workout tape woman from Sir Mix-a-lot's immortal classic, "Baby Got Back."

It's ultimately easy for me to understand why this movie was forgotten and quietly swept under the rug; a lot of movies like this one are made and then unceremoniously forgotten within a few years of their release. I figure if someone saw fit to dump The Curse and Curse 2: The Bite on DVD, it's probably not so unusual that this one eventually made it. But most forgettable entertainment usually has one or two good scenes to redeem it; Rollover is merciful because it's not a bad film, is oddly engaging when you watch it, and has a wicked ending that ties the convolutions of the plot together nicely.

When watching it, I could tell Dad pretty much forgot the 103 minutes that preceded the ending, but he vividly remembered that final fifteen. After seeing it, I can understand why.

- Dustin Sklavos

All written content and colored rating system copyright Dustin Sklavos 2009. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.