Rollerball


Directed by: John McTiernan
Written by:Larry Ferguson, John Pouge
Starring: Chris Klein, Jean Reno, LL Cool J, Rebecca Romijn-Stamos
Released: March 7, 2002
Grade: C

This film was to be released six months ago but disgraceful test screenings sent the producers back to the studio for a slicing and dicing session.  It didn’t get any better.  At the premiere, star Chris Klein called the film a “catastrophe”.  I love the refreshing honesty but I guess he didn’t have a choice.  To come out and say the film was believably great would have required a performance surpassing that he gave in the film.

Director John McTiernan has made back-to-back remakes.  Three years, he directed The Thomas Crown Affair which had its moments but Rollerball was a disaster waiting to happen.  The original was made in 1975 and starred James Caan.  I never saw it but it does seem an unlikely candidate for a remake.  Even more so now with MGM spending a whopping $70m on the film and receiving a return of under $20m.  Ouch.

So what is Rollerball?  It’s a game developed by Petrovich (Reno) to market to TV networks.  It’s played on a ring where two teams compete on rollerskates and motorcycles trying to win possession of the ball and smashing it into the goalposts.  Jonathan Cross (Klein) is the number one star of the sport and Petrovich rewards him as such with a very swanky lifestyle.  Cross is having a secret affair with one of his teammates, Aurora (Romijn-Stamos).

TV ratings are slipping and Petrovich is pulling out all stops to keep the networks interested and to keep the cash rolling in.  He sets up a serious of violent accidents on the field and ratings begin to pick up again.  Cross does think much of it at first but friend Marcus Ridley (LL Cool J) suspects Petrovich and the two plan to flee the team and head home.  Not easily done...

There’s some questionable decisions made during this film.  McTiernan has a scene shot at night which has a green tinge as if being watch through night goggles.  It’s fun for a while but the technique wears thin very quickly.  For a rare positive comment, I liked the setting and the Blade Runner like feel of the action.  It’s pretty hard to tell what’s going on but it looked worth watching.  I had to chuckle at McTiernan sneaking in a few breasts shots of the female cast (including Romijn-Stamos).  It’s like something out of the 1980s.

Critics are confident this film will be the worst of the year but I’m not prepared to go as far as it does have redeeming qualities.  I know that’s not a compliment but it’s as close as this film is going to get.