Rollerball Review

Kazakhstan in the near future. Rollerball's American star player realises that the sport's increasing violence is being rigged to increase its cable audience. But TV mogul Petrovich would rather have the boy killed than let him off the team.

by Kim Newman |
Published on
Release Date:

28 Jun 2002

Running Time:

102 minutes



Original Title:


Though it doesn't have the Star Wars/E.T. clout that would rate a re-release rather than a remake, Norman Jewison's glum, violent, but memorable 1975 science fiction picture 'Rollerball' hardly deserves to be further dragged down by association with this busy, inept and annoying retread.

With a plot that has been trimmed to near-incomprehensibility, and action scenes over-edited well beyond that point, the John McTiernan edition of 'Rollerball' has the feel of a film no-one was especially happy with.

The original was a kind of Orwellian lone-man-against-evil-corporate-future tale, with James Caan's Jonathan E. standing up to a whole society. This, however, is just a goodies vs. baddies melodrama in which a few caricatured nasties, headed by rotten Russkie Jean Reno, are responsible for the corruption of a popular spectacle, and everyone sides with Chris Klein's boyish but uncommitted superstar when he gets off the rollerball rink to attack the owners' box.

It's a faster film this time round, sacrificing storytelling (and even explanation of what's exactly happening in the game) to keep the action non-stop. However, some indecision about the gore level means that the supposedly 'violent' version of rollerball seen in the climax seems no different from the 'acceptable' sport played earlier.

The mixed-race, mixed-sex cast balances white-bread Klein with LL Cool J and Rebecca Romijn-Stamos, but the players are uniformly stuffed into leathers and helmets so that stuntmen can take the heavy slams. They also get no help from the snarled, all-cliched script. McTiernan makes odd choices (filming one chase in grainy, green, night-cam vision), but strangest of all is following up 'The Thomas Crown Affair' with another Jewison remake. What's next - 'Jesus Christ Superstar', 'A Soldier's Story', 'The Hurricane'?

No. Rent the original instead, or go outside and play a game.
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