STARRING: Chris Klein, Jean Reno, LL Cool J, Rebecca Romijn-Stamos, Naveen Andrews

2002, 98 Minutes, Directed by: John McTiernan

This is a remake of a 1975 movie of the same name that starred James Caan. In this 2002 remake, a scaly entrepreneur named Petrovich, who is of vague East European extraction, hosts the dangerous future sport of the same name. Jean Reno of Godzilla and The Professional fame plays Petrovich. Reno is actually French of course. Oh well. In the original Rollerball, huge faceless corporations to keep the masses docile hosted the sport. All Petrovich wants is a contract with a major American television station . . .

Not to worry. Ratings for the TV broadcasts are tallied in real-time. Ratings shoot up dramatically when people tune in to watch anything dramatic that is happening – a bit like people who like watching car races for the crashes, I suppose. How this happens is never explained. Don’t people settle on what they are going to watch beforehand – and if there is something more exciting on another TV channel, then how do they know when to switch over to that channel? People don’t actually phone one another when they watch something good on TV. “Hey, check out the violent rollerball game on seven.” Or do they?

A lot things are never explained. Like (most irksome) why the lead hero never bothers strapping his helmet to his head during a game. At one point he knows that members of an opposing team is out to get him, so he wears a spine protector (whatever that is), but he doesn’t bother tying the straps on his helmet!

Naturally, these rollerball games aren’t legal, so they are held in various former Soviet bloc countries instead of the States or Europe. Note the sarcasm in my voice: I don’t think cheaper shooting costs had anything to do with this. At the end of the movie, the American all-star hero of the game incites the masses watching to revolution! I kid you not! “Thanks to the good-looking American sports hero we have seen the light!” I can imagine them saying. “Capitalism has failed us! So, it’s back to communism for us!”

Speaking of which, Chris Klein plays said idol of the sport-watching masses dumped into poverty because of World Bank policy failures after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Talk about miscasting! Klein’s character is supposed to be one bad ass mother, but one look into those cuddly wuddly eyes of his and you know he’s better suited for modeling Calvin Klein underwear. A better choice would have been, um, a younger and swaggering James Caan I suppose.

The real problem with Rollerball isn’t all this ridiculousness however. Instead, it is that its action sequences make no damned sense at all! I remember the sport sequences in the original to be rather thrilling to watch. Here quick editing destroys any semblance of flow and tension: in other words, we can’t follow what the hell is going on! Instead, we have scenes of people flying through the air on rollerblades accompanied by an annoyingly loud metal soundtrack.

The original movie wasn’t all that great. It had some dull moments, but at least one could see why anyone would want to watch the game of rollerball. In addition, it made some points about how sport is the real opium of the masses. As Umberto Eco said, you will never have a revolution during the Sunday afternoon match. This remake exists for no clear reason at all. It doesn’t even make sense and the action is dull and repetitive.

(See? I wrote the entire review without once complaining about how vacuous today’s movies are compared to those made in the 1970s. Oops!)



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