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Rollerball: Craptastic!

Rollerball
Director: John McTiernan
Studio: MGM
Starring: Chris Klein, Jean Reno, LL Cool J
Rating: PG-13

Chris Klein (Oz from the American Pie films) stars as “Jonathan,” joining LL Cool J and Rebecca Romijn-Stamos on a team playing the world’s newest “extreme sport”: Rollerball! Apparently sophisticated Americans are not interested in such a low-brow affair, so the league is forced to play in various Central Asian locations. Team owner Jean Reno soon realizes that ratings go up when more people get hurt, and hatches a plot to achieve his life-long goal: North American Cable TV Syndication! Can our heroes keep the US airwaves Rollerball-free?

To paraphrase Lloyd Bentsen: “Senator, I grew up with Rollerball. I knew Rollerball. Rollerball was a friend of mine. Senator, you’re no Rollerball…”

The original Rollerball (1975) was one of those movies that was seemingly always on some UHF station late at night when I was growing up. Cheesy 70’s visions of the future and decent action scenes always seemed to make it a good watch, and at some point I realized there was actually a social message behind the movie…but I digress.

Holy cow, did this remake ever suck! Let me count the ways:
The movie’s producers add a touch of realism by never showing any recognizable landmarks on location in “Central Asia.” At one point, the director decides to make use of a “night vision” effect, which inexplicably lasts for 20 minutes. Rebecca Romijn-Stamos flounders her way through a bad Russian accent worthy of, well, John Stamos. Our hero’s best friend (LL Cool J) can’t convince him to ditch his NHL tryout for the big-bucks world of Rollerball, but spying a couple of cops rustling homeless people for information about his whereabouts apparently does the trick. The big ending? Weak. Jean Reno’s a badass (The Professional.) He would never let some schmuck like Chris Klein beat him up! When the director tries to rally the audience behind Jonathan at the end of the film, everyone in attendance instead burst out laughing at the ridiculously shameless ploy.

In summary, I hope someone in Hollywood gets fired for greenlighting this movie (so they can subsequently hire someone from HBS.) Three thumbs down. Avoid at all costs!

February 19, 2002
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