When the original “Rollerball” was released in 1975, American audiences used acid to help them “experience” the film. In 2002, this hallucinogen is no longer in such widespread use. Luckily, John McTiernan’s remake of this movie is so awful that it actually induces a bad trip without the need to relive your parents’ seventies experience.
In case you were not alive in 1975, here is a synopsis of how the plot was originally supposed to look. Norman Jewison set his story in 2005, at that time thirty years in the future. In this futuristic world, all violence has been banned. Humans release their aggression by watching or participating in the extremely corrupt and violent sport of rollerball. The film follows the Michael Jordon of the day, Jonathon Cross, as he discovers and struggles to liberate himself from a complicated web of deceit. In essence, the original film was the epitome of cinematic simplicity.
It contained no layers, no subplots and virtually no other character aside from Our Hero.
What amazes me as a consumer is how you could possibly mess this up.
Did no one adequately explain the fundamentals of filmmaking to John McTiernan? As a remake, this film should do one simple thing: be better than the original. Given the original, this should not have been difficult to accomplish. However, in this case, bad acting, worse directing and unspeakable editing combine to make this film officially worse than “Staxxx” might have been.
In the remake, the futuristic aspect is lost. Instead, it is still 2005. Apparently, within the next three years, the “former Soviet republic” and “central Asia” will form a business alliance based solely on rollerball, whose rules are never explained. All we know is that it involves a small track, rollerblades, motorcycles, and shameless Russian stereotypes. No longer is rollerball a release for violent tendencies. Rather, it is Russian media mogul Petrovich’s (Jean Reno) desire to own the most watched extreme sport on television. If this is the future, maybe he should have learned from the failure of the XFL.
At the start of the film, Jonathon (Chris Klein looking like Keanu Reeves) kills a man in a mad race of street luge. Yes, you read that correctly. After this poor action fiasco, Marcus (LL Cool J, self-explanatory) recruits Jonathon to play on his Eastern European rollerball team. After an awkward love-affair with teammate Aurora (Rebecca-Romijn Stamos), Jonathon discovers that various rollerball accidents have not been accidents at all. They were arranged by Petrovich in an attempt to boost ratings. As if this were not predictable enough, Jonathon proceeds to expose the corruption and get the girl before the credits roll.
Does it strike you as odd that this plot takes two hours to reach a climax? The director fills the time with horrible action scenes laced with editing cuts that place random cars and people in the street for only seconds until they magically vanish. Constant loud music adds ambiance to these touching moments. Not to mention the 30 minutes of the movie filmed in night vision for no apparent reason.
I thought I was tripping.