‘Roll Red Roll’ Review: A Horrifying Assault in a Small Ohio Town
21st March 2019

“What did they do with that girl?,” an unseen male asks as the peaceful opening shots of the documentary “Roll Red Roll” reveal a quiet, darkening street lined with tidy family homes. The skin-crawling audio continues, others now joining a conversation pocked with callousness and nervous giggles: “She is so raped right now.”

With bone-chilling explicitness, the director Nancy Schwartzman lays out exactly what happened to “that girl” at the hands of high-school football stars in Steubenville, Ohio, in 2012. Picking at the scab of respectability, she reveals a football-crazed culture of misogyny and entitlement that resulted in the brutal abuse of an unwary teenager too inebriated to recall her ordeal. Fortunately, the cellphones and social-media accounts of her attackers and their friends would remember for her.

Assembling these repugnant posts and videos (cannily captured and published at the time by the industrious crime blogger and interviewee Alexandria Goddard) into a timeline of casual depravity, Schwartzman deepens her dive and widens her reach. What emerges is an infuriating portrait of sports-mad solidarity and victim-blaming that would eventually attract worldwide attention and prompt the investigative reporter Rachel Dissell to wonder if Steubenville was “putting its daughters at risk by protecting its sons.”

A tough but essential watch, “Roll Red Roll” documents how a sexual assault in a declining Appalachian town became an international cause célèbre. Shots of near-empty streets and an abandoned steel mill provide a melancholy frame for behavior that seems horrifyingly incomprehensible.

“I can’t wait for this story to go away,” an unseen radio jock says near the end. Now that part I understand.

Roll Red Roll

Movie data powered by IMDb.com

Not rated. Running time: 1 hour 20 minutes.

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