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Movie Reviews

Rollerball (2002)  

Chris Klein, LL Cool J, Jean Reno, Rebecca Romijn-Stamos.
Written by Stephen J. Rivele, Christopher Wilkinson, Michael Mann and Eric Roth
Directed by John McTiernan

Released by MGM

Official site
Trailer: Windows Media 56k | 100k | 300k

When the film starts, Marcus (L.L. Cool J) is already involved in rollerball,
an extreme sport that crosses basketball, motocross, jai-alai, roller derby
and the XFL. The games take place in Kazakhstan and are beamed all over the
world, though the league is currently without a deal to televise the sport in
the United States. He talks Jonathan (Chris Klein) into joining him,
promising unbelievable money in a relatively short period of time - plenty
more than Marcus can make as an accountant, which is what he studied in
school. There's a brief reference made to the two men being classmates,
which considering the apparent age difference, makes one of them either
really smart or really dumb.

Flash to four months later, where Jonathan has become the darling of the
league and owner Alexi Petrovich's (Jean Reno) key to securing a North
American cable deal. The only trouble is Alexi will do anything to increase
the sport's television ratings, including staging dangerous incidents of
violence that grow more and more intense.

Rollerball was reportedly to be an R-rated summer blockbuster last year, but
a bunch of violence and, reportedly, a full frontal scene with Rebecca
Romijn-Stamos (Aurora) were cut out to get the PG-13 rating.

In case you don't get the message that the sport is all about the money, the
point is driven home again and again and again with dozens of shots of cash
being counted and the "instant ratings" board skyrocketing whenever viewers
see blood.

Owner Petrovich makes sure his stars have the fastest, coolest cars and live
the highest of high lives. But come game time, he keeps an eye on the instant
TV ratings, ordering strategic "accidents" to spice up the matches when the
audience dwindles.

"It was only a matter of time before one of those creeps figured out their
take would go up with a little blood on the tracks," Marcus observes.

Jonathon, Marcus and Aurora are bland at best through out, and Jonathon dips
to caricature near the end in a showdown so silly it resembles a Saturday
Night Live spoof of action films. Petrovich is so bad he becomes
unintentionally hilarious.

The rollerball outfits and arenas are too absurd to describe. Except for
Jonathon and Marcus, everyone else is wearing extravagant helmets and pink
tutus and dresses and knights in armor, a jester's outfit, skull masks and
pointy-eared helmets.

The same absurdness can be seen in the repetitive, head-banging music the
rollerball "house bands" play to enliven the crowds. In the final game,
Petrovich suspends all rules, fouls, and penalties. This makes no difference
that I could see.

The movie ultimately glorifies violence as the athletes viciously rebel
against the owners and their henchmen. Adult audiences will find the rabid
climax laughable, but for teens, toward whom the movie is targeted, the
message is horrible: Feeling oppressed? Pick up a stool and crack a few
skulls. It's your right.

If you only see one blood-sport movie about an extreme sport that crosses basketball, motocross, jai-alai, roller derby and the XFL all year, make sure it is not Rollerball (2002). Rollerbomb would be more apropos, in my opinion. This movie gives reviewers an understanding of why negative numbers were created.

The first "Rollerball," which was made in 1975 and starred James Caan, contained strong elements of social commentary. It took place 40 years in the
future, when the world was controlled by corporations that wiped out war, poverty, unrest -- and any vestige of individuality. Rollerball, a sport that combined roller derby, motorcycling and basketball, was the outlet for our violent tendencies and the opiate of the masses. The message of the 1975 film, which revealed the depravity of excessive violence is pretty much jettisoned here. This version is all about the violence - the more, the better.

The 1975 sci-fi social thriller "Rollerball" had a mood of government and corporate oppression that this movie does not come close to touching. Where
the original movie raised, what were then, shocking questions about a corporate capacity to murder for profit, the question is now taken for granted as gambling syndicates control a game for the masses in third world locations.

In this remake, the various costumes of the rollerball players come straight out of some sort of WWF or WCW game, but in a team sport it looks ludicrous. All the masks would limit line of sight for the players and make it extremely easy to defeat them.

The only reason this movie isn't rated lower is the opening of Rollerball, which depicts two street lugers racing each other to the bay while avoiding both traffic and pursuing police cruisers.

1 out of 5

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