2002, Movie, PG-13, 98 mins


There are several good reasons to remake ROLLERBALL: Norman Jewison's 1975 futuristic nightmare hasn't dated particularly well and its vision of a corporate dystopia in which televised bloodsport is considered entertainment has already come to pass. But from the looks of this film, director John McTiernan couldn't think of a single one. In a future so immediate it could be next week, Rollerball, a hot new start-up sport that combines motocross, roller derby and lacrosse, is taking Central Asia by storm. The game is fairly straightforward: Members of two competing teams skate around a figure-eight shaped track, passing a silver ball back and forth until one player gets close enough to bounce it off a target. Audiences bet on their favorite teams, and the whole spectacle is televised across Asia; producers rely on a "Global Instant Ratings" meter to apprise them of immediate audience reactions and, if need be, manipulate what they're seeing. Back in the states, NHL hopeful Jonathan Cross (Chris Klein) is waiting for his big break when high-school buddy Marcus Ridley (LL Cool J) pressures him into moving East, where he's made a fortune on the Rollerball circuit. Four months later, Jonathan is the star player of an international Rollerball team whose ranks include Marcus, gentle giant Toba (Jay Mahin) and Aurora (Rebecca Romijn-Stamos), a feisty Dutch girl whose publicly hostile attitude towards Jonathan is a dead giveaway that they're secretly lovers. Jonathan gets a little suspicious when Toba is "accidentally" smashed in the face by a ball-wielding opponent and the ratings go through the roof; his suspicions are confirmed when he discovers that the straps of Toba's protective helmet were cut. Jonathan tries to convince Marcus that Rollerball's creator, Petrovich (a blustering Jean Reno), intends to use staged accidents to bolster ratings, but Marcus isn't having any of it: The money and fame are just too good to resist. Granted, Jewison's adaptation of William Harrison's Esquire short story "The Rollerball Murders" was a bit turgid and a little self-important, but it was serious about what it had to say. Veteran action director McTiernan, on the other hand, offers a mild media critique, then caters to his audience's taste for brutal spectacle — the very taste the picture purports to condemn — to carry the picture. Once LL Cool J, easily the film's most magnetic presence, is out of the game, the whole thing falls apart in a hazy, confusing mess. The interminable slo-mo sequences at the end squeeze out whatever life was left like congealed toothpaste from a tube. leave a comment --Ken Fox

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