9 July 2002 | Buddy-51
`Rollerball' is a god-awful remake of the 1975 Norman Jewison film about a fictional sport in which murdering the players becomes a primary object of the game. The original film acquired what little credibility it had by setting the story sometime in the distant future. This version is set in the present, but it tries to maintain its believability by locating the league in Southwest Asia, under the parochial assumption, I suppose, that that part of the world is every bit as alien, exotic and dehumanized as any hypothetical future society. It doesn't work. It is simply impossible for us to believe even for a split second that the owners and promoters of this sport would think they could get away with such murderous shenanigans broadcast live to millions of viewers the world over. Might not the United Nations, among other international organizations, have a thing or two to say about all this? Also, will someone please explain to me just WHAT purpose is served by having the promoters of this sport killing off their own players? Doesn't that sort of deplete their own resources for future games? I can't imagine too many people willingly signing on to engage in this sort of gladiatorial tomfoolery.
Even if we agreed to swallow the whole thing merely for the sake of the entertainment value of the film, we would be forced to admit that `Rollerball' is a chintzy, clunky, uninteresting movie in all respects. The sport itself sort of a cross between motor cross racing, roller derby, hockey and basketball is completely unexciting, consisting of little more than blurred figures racing madly around a cramped, claustrophobic track. Without even the context of good action sequences, `Rollerball' is forced to fall back on its dialogue and characters, which proves to be disastrous for all concerned. Chris Klein, in the role of hotshot Jonathon Cross - played by James Caan in the original - comes across as a minor league version of Keanu Reeves. LL Cool J is wasted in the part of Jonathon's American sidekick, and poor Jean Reno gets to play one of the most laughable villains we've run across in a movie in a long long long long time.
In fact, this redux turns out to be good for nothing BUT a few hearty laughs. If you are in need of such, check out `Rollerball.' It's a real hoot.