"Rollerball" DVD, Blu-ray Movie Review

5/06/2010 Posted by Admin

DVD, Blu-ray Movie Review


Directed by John McTiernan. Written by Larry Ferguson and John Pogue, based on the short story and screenplay by William Harrison, 98 minutes, rated PG-13.

By Christopher Smith

John McTiernan's 2002 thriller "Rollerball" is one of those movies you never quite forget--which is why, I suppose, we have psychotherapy, mood-enhancing prescription drugs and neighborhood bars to help us cope.

Based on the 1975 original starring James Caan and Maud Adams, this 2002 version, from a script by Larry Ferguson and John Pogue, is determined to overlook everything that made its inspiration so prescient.

Instead of exploring why pop culture is fascinated with extreme sports, it’s only content to exploit the violence and the blood within the sport. Instead of focusing on how these sports are shaped and fueled by major corporations, it overlooks their influence in favor of featuring a string of head-banging, heavy-metal riffs.

In the film, Chris Klein is Jonathan, a fresh-faced kid from San Francisco who leaves his meaningless life in the states to become a meaningless sports star in Kazakhstan, Russia, a post-communist bloc country that’s absolutely certain its ticket to free trade rests with the game of Rollerball.

I want you to think about that for a minute. It’s a revelation that will either make you laugh or cry.

For those who haven't seen the film, the game of Rollerball played here is a wild cross between motorcross, lacrosse, roller derby, Polo and the World Wrestling Federation. It's so cutthroat, it could give the XFL--or figure skating, for that matter--a run for its ruble.

Running the show in Kazakhstan is the evil Petrovich (Jean Reno), a mustache-twirling, neuvo-capitalist with a perpetual sneer who's determined to turn Rollerball into a smash success. His ultimate goal is to snag a U.S. cable television deal, but in order to pull that off, Petrovich feels he must do what any soulless individual working in television management would do--he undermines his players in the name of ratings. (For eight years, I worked in television, and I can tell you for a fact that this is the only element of the movie McTiernan gets right.)

In Petrovich's case, that means making the game as violent as possible, a shrewd business move that lifts the show's ratings to meteoric heights. Petrovich’s problem? Oddly enough, none of his players is willing to sacrifice their lives so Petrovich can get rich.

With LL Cool J as an accountant-turned-Rollerball superstar and Rebecca Romijn-Stamos as a Russian minx whose performance suggests she worked for scale and a case of Stoli, "Rollerball" takes its place beside "Battlefield Earth" as one of the worst movies Hollywood has shucked out in recent years.

As "Roller Boogie" is my witness, they don't make them any worse than this.

Grade: F

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