Cast & Crew
LL Cool J
Produced by Kristen
Branan, John McTiernan, Charles Roven, Beau St. Clair and
Michael Tadross; Directed by John McTiernan; Screenwritten
by Larry Ferguson and John Pogue; based on the
short story/1975 screenplay by William Harrison
Action (US); Rated PG-13 for mild violence
and sexuality; Running Time - 99 Minutes
Domestic Release Date
February 8, 2002
by DAVID KEYES
movie theaters slowly but surely toss aside the remnants
of the 2001 award contenders, we as a defensive moviegoeing
public continue to be subjected to a relentless batch of
massive cinematic mistakes, a deed that normally occurs
in the first four months of every new year as movie studios
attempt to wipe their slate clear of any major errors of
the past. Audiences already know the painful experience
of witnessing this year's notable travestiesincluding
"Orange County," "Impostor" and the
recent "Slackers"and will undoubtedly keep
their defenses up as we sleepwalk our way towards a (hopefully)
brighter future at the multiplex.
no amount of warning could have prepared us for "Rollerball,"
a film that opens with a hectic racing scene down the busy
stretches of San Fransisco highway and then immediately
continues its descent into an atmosphere of crummy storytelling,
pathetic acting, childish directing and utterly catastrophic
film editing. Yet such significant distinctions barely scrape
the surface of experiencing the picture firsthand, which
isn't just incompetent and sloppy, but without a doubt the
single most atrocious and disgraceful major studio release
of the new millennium. Given a climate that is already plagued
by the likes of "Battlefield Earth," "Next
Friday," "Bubble Boy" and "The Skulls,"
this is no small accomplishment, either. The movie is worthless,
pointless, joyless garbage, and it's a wonder that anyone
lucid could have possibly approved the project to begin
with, much less release it in this sort of condition.
year is 2005, and the popularity of extreme sports has virtually
become a worldwide sensation. Smooth-talking extreme athlete
Marcus Ridley (LL Cool J) teases his best bud Jonathan Cross
(Chris Klein) with promises of great thrills from the adrenaline-rushing,
bloodcurdling challenge that lies in rollerball, a sport
that has originated in Asia and combines elements of roller
derby, motorcycle racing, polo and even football on a court
that looks like a champion skateboarder's biggest dream.
Jonathan's career with the NHL is on ice, he and Marcus
jump at the opportunity set out before them and travel halfway
around the world to the center of this violence-infested
atmosphere. There, they join the team of the creepy ringleader
Alexi Petrovich (Jean Reno) while Jonathan himself becomes
quickly fascinated by the talented and beautiful Aurora
(Rebecca Romijn-Stamos), a teammate who gladly returns the
flirtatious behavior. But not all is right in extreme sports
land; as Jonathan's knowledge of the game progresses and
he garners a fan base, the game suddenly becomes increasingly
violent, resulting in injuries (and in some cases, nearly-fatal
accidents) that shock the audience, but result in increasing
worldwide exposure. Of course, this is all part of Petrovich's
master plan to have his sport broadcast across major airwaves,
but unless Jonathan, Marcus and Aurora can unravel the sinister
plot, they may wind up as the next casualties.
any of this sounds familiar, that's because "Rollerball"
is actually a loose remake of a 1975 film starring James
Caan, with the same title, about a futuristic society obsessed
over physically brutal and unrewarding sports. That movie
was no marvelous achievement to begin with, but the decision
to remake it at least (at the time) represented ideal instincts:
if you want to redo a movie, target one that you can make
improvements on. However, those plans didn't exactly go
smoothly when a final cut of the film was screened for text
audiences earlier last year, resulting in word-of-mouth
that described the result as not simply lousy, but disastrous.
The movie studio ordered reshooting and cutting as a result
of the overwhelming negative feedback (something, ironically,
that McTiernan has grown accustomed to ever since his "The
13th Warrior" endured a similar fate a few years back).
current version of the film has been hacked from a firm
R rating to a mild PG-13, and there are large scars to prove
it (in fact, it's not much of an overstatement to say that
this picture features the single worst film editing job
in cinematic history, finally ridding "Armageddon"
of that dubious honor). The movie's actions scenes contain
not one single frame of stability or clarity; few stay on
screen for more than a brief second, as if they were part
of a child's flip book, disappearing before we are even
aware of what is happening. The material containing nudity
and sexual romps, meanwhile, represents some of the most
clumsy and incompetent decision-making seen since "Supernova,"
where sex scenes were dissected so that only above-waist
physical action could be seen in order to maintain a PG-13
rating. There are instances when we see Romijn-Stamos and
Klein attempting to engage in rough intercourse, but just
as they begin to do the deed, the camera cuts to the next
scene and pretends it never happens. What's the point of
even including this stuff? Why not just remove it completely?
With fragments like this, "Rollerball" comes off
as not simply lousy, but amateurish, disconnected, pointless
and void of any shred of logic or reasoning. Of course,
any movie that has the nerve to include a lengthy chase
scene shot completely in badly-detailed night vision for
no apparent reason doesn't exactly have much concern for
doing things the right way to begin with.
and his studio have stooped to unprecedented lows by releasing
a major action film in this condition. But the more important
question is, why did they release it anyway? Haven't they
ever heard of a burn pile? And isn't it about time that
we were spared the mere existence of these lost causes?
Consider one of the remarks made by a television announcer
during one of the films key scenes: as motors rage, crowds
shout and testosterone is driven to an all-time high, he
announces "It's about to get interesting!" Much
later, we realize that probably no one ever taught him that
he shouldn't make promises he can't keep.
2002, David Keyes, Cinemaphile.org.
Please e-mail the author here
if the above review contains any spelling or grammar mistakes.