Remake of the 1975 future sports classic. When hockey player and skateboarder Jonathan Cross (Chris Klein) is recruited to play the emergent cable TV sport of Rollerball, he quickly becomes the game's biggest star. But after a fellow player is injured, Jonathan discovers some disturbing evidence which suggests the game is being manipulated by outside forces in order to make it increasingly violent and dangerous. Realising that his boss Petrovich (Jean Réno) is the man behind these changes, Jonathan starts making plans to get out of the game - but with so much money involved, it's unlikely his masters will let him off the hook easily.
This Rollerball, a 2002 remake of the excellent 1975 original, is one of the most notorious failed would-be blockbusters of recent years. Chris Klein struggles as Jonathon Cross, star of the violent game of the title, a mixture of speedway, hockey and rollerskating for the WWF generation. Perfunctory support comes from Rebecca (X Men) Romijn-Stamos, while Jean Reno is the promoter prepared to sacrifice player's lives for TV ratings. The remake could not be more different from the original in tone, as formal elegance is replaced by a cacophonic heavy metal soundtrack and MTV-style editing that makes the games impossible to follow. Set in the present, this Rollerball ironically fulfils the original's suggestion that the near future would be a big business, media-dominated world of blood and circuses. The film's best asset is relocating the story in a crumbling and corrupt Russia, a world sufficiently alien to have a genuinely science fictional resonance; the elaborate production design and wild profusion of costumes suggest post-communism, post-modern, global melting pot freefalling out of control, paying homage to Ridley Scott's seminal Blade Runner (significantly, perhaps, LL Cool J's character is called Ridley). Not quite as disastrous as expected, one still wonders how John (Die Hard) McTiernan made an action thriller this mediocre.
On the DVD: Rollerball's commentary by Chris Klein, LL Cool J and Rebecca Romijn-Stamos is jokey, amiable and reveals plenty of filmmaking trivia without offering anything substantial. The "Rollerball Yearbook" presents text profiles of the four teams and 11 key players linked to "highlights", i.e., montages taken from the film of the participants. This also has sections on six areas of the "Roller Dome" and three sections on "Game Gear", which amounts to a photo gallery of costumes, masks and bikes. Also included is the theatrical trailer and trailers for three other SF movies. The anamorphic 2.35:1 transfer is excellent, and the Dolby Digital 5.1 sound is suitably dynamic and raucous. There are subtitles in six languages as well as English and English for Hard of Hearing, while the disc also contains French and Spanish dubs of the main feature. --Gary S Dalkin
From the Back Cover
Roller ball is a fast-paced, slick action-thriller that goes full throttle with excitement from its death- defying opening until its explosive end.