Director: John McTiernan
Cast: Chris Klein, Jean Reno, LL Cool J, Rebecca Romijn-Stamos, Naveen Andrews
MPAA Rating: (for violence, extreme sports action, sensuality, language and some drug references)
Running Time: 1:40
Release Date: 2/8/02
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Review by Mark Dujsik
Some movies are bad. Others are just plain incompetent. But there are some whose incompetence is simply dumbfounding. Rollerball is one of those movies. The title refers to a futuristic sport where people skate around on rollerblades and ride around on motorcycles in a figure eight and occasionally try to throw a ball into a goal, setting off some minor fireworks. Sound exciting? The rest of the movie doesnít fare as well either. Hereís an action movie directed by John McTiernan, who directed Die Hard, arguably the best contemporary American action film, without a bit of style, substance, or visceral excitement. Whatever tiny trace of plot that does exist is there simply to string together a series of action sequences. The movie needs Cliff notes. The story is incoherent, and the action scenes are cut so quickly that we have no idea whatís going on. Fortunately, we donít care whatís going on, so itís only a small loss.
The movie opens with a street luge competition (you know, itís on the Olympics and looks like sledding but much faster) in the streets of what can only be San Francisco, what with all the hills, but I doubt thereís that little traffic in San Francisco at any time of the day. Jonathan Cross (Chris Klein) is one of the participants and soon finds himself being chased by a couple of police cars. Luckily heís saved by friend Marcus Ridley (LL Cool J), who shows him a pamphlet about Rollerball, and once he realizes the cops are still hounding, Jonathan decides to take him up on his offer. So off he goes to Central Asia (the generic title for those countries whose names and borders and politics are always changing and for lazy screenwriters who could care less) where Rollerball is centralized. He quickly becomes a star, but thereís a bit of a setback. Petrovich (Jean Reno), the culturally ambiguous man in charge, is looking to raise the sportís television ratings, conveniently displayed with a green digital readout, and notices that people watch when blood is spilt.
This raises the question, how exactly would people watching something else or not watching TV at all know that something gruesome has happened? And why donít the ratings stay up when the audience begins to realize that the sport sates their appetite for destruction? Of course, Jonathan entertains the idea of beginning to suspect foul play on behalf of Petrovich, so Petrovich, displaying an unbelievable amount of paranoia, sends some people to follow Jonathan. His horribly disfigured (she has two whole scars) teammate and locker room fun-buddy Aurora (Rebecca Romijn-Stamos) shows him the cryptic, unintelligible underbelly of the organization. Somewhere along the line, Petrovich decides that the star is a threat. Why? I donít know. Perhaps all the non-information he gains could hurt the magnateís reputation. Then Jonathan begins to run. Why? I donít know. I guess he learns something is amiss. Eventually barbed wire fences make a cheesy cartoon sound effect when people drive through them. Why? I donít know. I can only guess the sound effect editors didnít think anyone would notice.
The barbed wire bit occurs during a chase sequence shot entirely in night vision. What on earth would possess someone to shoot an elongated scene (somewhere from five to ten minutes) in this most annoying fashion? Nothing is gained; itís simply headache inducing. The rest of the action takes place on the court, but the gameís rules are concealed. Thereís no explanation to any of it, except the way in which a team can score, and even that makes little to no sense. If there are any rules, theyíre rather liberal. Players are hit and sent flyingóflipping perpendicularly through the airówithout penalty or reprimand. Eventually the rules are thrown away for a no holds barred match, and the big question is, whatís the difference? Chris Klein is completely miscast as an action star. While he can be funny as the endearingly dense oaf, here itís quite funny hearing him try to say his lines as a tough guy.
Rollerball is an insultingly bad movie, and even the flashiest, most distracting sound and visual gimmicks cannot hide this fact. The whole thing feels more like an exercise in rapid-fire editing and high-decibel sound effects than an attempt to make a movie. It all leads an orgy of violence and anarchy at the finale, which is the only logical end to and, as a result, the only piece of logic in this chaotic mess.
Copyright © 2002 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.