Rollerball

*

Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

Now that the former Soviet Union is seen by Hollywood as the playpen of capitalist bandits, it has become the venue for Wild West attitudes, where talent is bought and disloyalty punished by death. And so it is to this depressed area of Eastern Europe that Rollerball re-emerges after 27 years in the sin bin.

When Norman Jewison made the original, with James Caan in the lead, as an uncompromising statement on how a future government might placate a nation's lust for blood, it was roundly criticised for going too far. To contain violence within the confines of a stadium-sized games park and throw away the rule book is not clever. It's gratuitous.

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The new-look Rollerball is seedy, rather than spectacular. Jean Reno (Leon) plays Petrovich, the Russian entrepaneur, whose sole interest is international viewing figures for his televised game, which involves rollerbladers and motorbike riders rushing round a narrow track, trying to fling a lightweight cannonball into a tin dish. As in gladiatorial chariot races, the pace is furious and the tricks dirty. Petrovich is quick to notice that the figures soar when the violence increases.

Chris Klein, who made his name playing naive virgins in American Pie and Election, is miscast as the cool Californian football player, who switches to blades and becomes the darling of the Balkan fans. Rebecca Romijn-Stamos is the tough chick on the circuit, who cannot escape, because her family live there and she knows what will happen to them if she splits. She's so desperate she takes Klein to bed.

The film's 15-certificate is a nonsense. The violence is ugly and relentless. The movie is ugly, too.

John McTiernan made Die Hard and other high class action pictures. He must have been out to lunch when he directed this. It is messy, uncouth, incomprehensible, vicious and absurd. Meanwhile, someone should tell Klein that he's never going to be Steve McQueen.

Reviewed on: 05 Jul 2002
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Ultra-violent rollerblade/motorbike game, played for international TV, in former USSR.
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Director: John McTiernan

Writer: Larry Ferguson, John Pogue, based on a short story by William Harrison

Starring: Chris Klein, Jean Reno, LL Cool J, Rebecca Romijn, Naveen Andrews, Oleg Taktarov, David Hemblen, Janet Wright, Andrew Bryniarski, Kata Dobó, Alice Poon

Year: 2002

Runtime: 98 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US

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