It's the year 2005 and the athletic but unsettled young Jonathan Cross (Chris Klein) doesn't know what to do with his life. When his best friend Ridley (LL Cool J) suggests he join him for a lucrative season on the Rollerball circuit, Jonathan heeds the call. His success inside the ring is matched by fast cars and fast women like Aurora (Rebecca Romijn-Stamos) outside the ring, until he discovers that team owner Petrovich (Jean Reno) is willing to put his players in danger to boost the show's ratings.
Review by Shannon J. Harvey:
They should have called it Gutterball. John McTiernan's redux of the 1975 sci-fi classic Rollerball is a demolition site of a film that implodes as it goes. As subtle as a sledgehammer, acted like concrete, edited with a pickaxe, as stylish as a slush pile and as interesting as a brick wall, Rollerball is one structurally and aesthetically unsound film. It's not only the worst film I've seen this year, it's the worst of last year too - Glitter and Freddy Got Fingered included. This big, loud, lumbering and pointless assault on the senses is a bland spectacle which - given the original film's icy ideas of capitalism gone awry - could have been something spectacular. Not that the original was perfect, but what's the point of a remake if not to improve upon the original or give it an interesting spin. This simply plays like a two-hour episode of extreme sports meets WWF's brand of orchestrated bloodsports. From the get-go, when Klein body-surfs the streets of San Francisco on a skateboard, we have no idea about the year (present or future?), and when he joins the Rollerball circuit, we have no idea where it takes place (Central Asia, Middle East, East Africa?). A myriad of spoken languages confuse the location even further. There's the most gratuitous breast shots I've seen since Showgirls, and the most random degeneration to bloody violence ever - as if Jonathan's way to combat his teammate's destruction is to do a little destruction of his own. "They cut his chin-strap," Klein complains to a caricatured Jean Reno, despite never feeling the need to strap his own helmet on. Strangely enough, this is John McTiernan's second re-make of a Norman Jewison film after The Thomas Crown Affair. You would think Hollywood had learnt its lesson, especially after Gus Van Sant's pointless, ghastly remake of Hitchcock's Psycho. Not that many people will see the new Rollerball, however. Columbia has all but avoided it. It shows; there were only two other guys in the cinema on opening day.
Review by Richard Kuipers:
What a strange mess this is. A remake of the overrated and ponderous 1975 adaptation of William Harrison's short story The Rollerball Murders, this lacks even the most basic cohesion and story-telling elements. It also lacks a credible hero in Chris Klein who is unable to shake off his teen-film nice-guy image (despite the fact he's pushing 30) playing the greatest competitor in the history of the world's most ridiculous and bloody sport. This film was long-delayed and much altered in post-production and it shows. Originally set to release on May 18, 2001 and drastically recut after disastrous preview screenings, this is still a mish-mash of half-baked ideas and design overkill; John McTiernan's film doesn't know what it is other than confused. Take the opening half hour in which we meet Klein scooting down those over-filmed streets of San Francisco on an oversized skateboard. He finds police prowling around his front door then, hey presto, cut to Kazahkstan where he's now a superstar on the Rollerball circuit patronised by downtrodden coal-miners. Are we in the future? I think we're supposed to be but outside the rink there's no hint of the decayed social order integral to Harrison's story. What we get instead is almost non-stop Rollerball action set to a screaming industrial rock soundtrack and about 2 minutes of plot in between each set piece. The game is stupid and inexplicable but the most bizarre sequence by far is a scene in which LL Cool J and Klein are being chased across the snow at night by Reno and his goons. For reasons known only to McTiernan and Australian DoP Steve Mason, this extended sequence is shot entirely with grainy green night-vision lenses. It looks awful and makes no sense, but then again neither does anything else in this travesty. If you are a dedicated fan of extreme sports and wish Fear Factor was still on TV, Rollerball is the film for you. For anyone else it’s an hour and a half of torture.
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DVD REVIEW - ORIGINAL
CAST: Chris Klein, Jean Reno, LL Cool J, Rebecca Romijn-Stamos
DIRECTOR: John McTiernan
PRODUCER: Norman Jewison, John McTiernan, Charles Roven, Beau St. Clair
SCRIPT: William Harrison (short story Roller Ball Murders, and 1975 screenplay), Larry Ferguson, John Pogue (screenplay)
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Norman Garwood
MUSIC: BT, Eric Serra
RUNNING TIME: 98 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Col Tristar
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: March 7, 2002