Reviewed by GREG KING
Director: John McTiernan
Stars; Chris Klein, Jean Reno, LL Cool J, Rebecca Romijn-Stamos.
John McTiernan’s remake of Norman Jewison’s 1975 sci-fi film Rollerball is a rather tedious and pointless exercise, that also ranks as one of the worst movies released so far this year.
A decade ago, McTiernan had established a reputation as an exciting director of impressive action sequences (Die Hard, The Hunt For Red October, etc), but this is a rather pedestrian and lack lustre effort. Any expectations that McTiernan would bring cutting edge technology and state of the art special effects to this updated classic are quickly dashed, and this new version of Rollerball lacks any slick touches or imagination. There is a night chase scene which McTiernan has, for unknown reasons, decided to shoot in the kind of murky green shades familiar to audiences of CNN newscasts of night warfare from recent foreign fields of combat, but which add little to the drama.
In the original film, which was based on a short story by William Harrison and set in the 21st century, corporations ruled the world, and war between countries had been replaced by the sport of rollerball, a violent, energetic, free wheeling and brutal cross between motorcycle racing, roller derby and ice hockey, which supposedly appeased the blood lust of the down trodden masses. The new version of Rollerball is now set in the former Russian republics and central Asia, where the game is created and controlled by a conglomerate of former KGB officers, corrupt executives and elements of the Russian Mafia as a way of distracting the oppressed miners from their lot, and also as an outlet for their frustrations. The conglomerate is not beyond deliberately injecting a little mayhem into the game as a means of increasing their television ratings share.
Chris Klein (from teen movies like the two American Pies and Election, etc) steps into the James Caan role as Jonathan, the legendary survivor of the game who eventually inspires the audience to rise up in rebellion against the authorities and end their brutal exploitation. However, Klein is too squeaky clean, handsome, and innocent, and lacks Caan’s convincing air of hardness. He is terribly miscast here, and is woefully inadequate as the inspirational champion. Jean Reno (Mission Impossible, etc) hams it up badly as the powerful CEO of the conglomerate. LL Cool J is wasted, while Rebecca Romijn-Stamos is brought on board to add some sex appeal to temper the testosterone.
Not only has McTiernan badly botched the film, but he has also squandered any opportunity to explore the way in which sport has been cynically exploited and changed by television networks in pursuit of the almighty advertising dollar and ratings points. The film’s action is underlined with a raucous sound track, and characterised by some unnecessarily rapid and disjointed editing that makes it almost painful to watch.
Check out the original instead and see just how pitifully inadequate McTiernan’s remake is by comparison!