By: Trevor Chartrand
Despite the promise of a wacky premise, Roller Squad disappoints. Its ambition and potential is overshadowed by a weak execution overall. In fairness, Berty Cadilhac’s movie may appeal to pre-teens looking up to some “rad skaters” and, I suppose, makes a good jumping-off point for young imaginations to build a world around. But as for the film itself, this series of goofy events featuring bumbling characters is ultimately a dud.
In Roller Squad, a gang of roller-skating slackers from London encounter an ominous skating serial killer, who rolls up on their friends, stabs them, and makes a quick getaway on wheels. With no leads, the police have little to offer the slackers. So, to protect themselves, the skaters create their own vigilante killer-hunting network, the titular Roller Squad. However, with no crime-fighting abilities, and a short supply of brainpower – the Squad struggle to make any headway on the case, with nothing to offer other than their ability to skate a moderate speed.
There are massive strides taken by the filmmakers in an effort to make a comedic film, but many of the jokes simply don’t land and, instead, lead to characters appearing more and more idiotic as the film goes on. They can’t work their tracking software, they can’t communicate with each other, and they get lost in their own city. Again, maybe this could garner a chuckle from a younger audience. But when jokes are overplayed by this cast so dramatically, they might as well pause and wink at the camera after each line delivery.
Another glaring problem is Cadilhac’s unfocused script, featuring an ensemble cast that doesn’t appear to give any weight or plot responsibility to one protagonist. At least not until the ending, when someone who was a B-character, at best, suddenly has an emotional arc shoe-horned into the film’s final moments. The Squad as a team appear to be the driving force of the film, only to suddenly single out one member right before the curtain call.
Our most significant letdown though, is an ending so inconsequential and disappointing, it undermines the entire experience of watching the movie. This is essentially because the Roller Squad have virtually no involvement in the capture of the serial killer. Their efforts are literally for nothing, and therefore a waste of the viewer’s time. To add insult to injury, the killer is never identified. As the credits roll, the villain’s motivation for killing remains undisclosed.
There’s a last-ditch attempt for emotional catharsis at the end, with the protagonist suddenly learning her big lesson – but again, a lack of focus in the script has not made it clear she was the character movie goers were supposed to be paying attention to this whole time.
The production value of Roller Squad is interesting, to say the least. The roller skating chase sequences have a minimal amount of visual flair, with a shaky cam akin to folks filming skate tricks for TikTok. An early chase scene takes place in London at night, and goes on for many minutes – down streets, sidewalks, alleys and parks – curiously, not a single pedestrian or car is in sight. According to the press notes, by shooting during the pandemic, the production was able to take advantage of empty locations for scenes like this one. However, in the context of the movie, it’s noticeably unrealistic that even at night, not one person is walking or driving in the city of London. Most notably, there’s an unintentionally humorous ‘fight scene’ mid-way through the film, where a skater encounters the killer and they scuffle, pivoting on their skates without making contact with each other. It’s an amateur attempt at action, and it looks ridiculous.
Overall, Roller Squad is an absurdly goofy vigilante story that fails to really punch as a comedy, as intended. Rather than landing any sweet tricks, this film stumbles and scrapes its knees – hard.
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Trevor Chartrand: @OhHaiTrebor