starring Chris Klein, Jean Reno, LL Cool J, Rebecca Romijn-Stamos, Naveen Andrews, Pink and Slipnot
written by Larry Ferguson and John Pogue
directed by John McTiernan
This is a re-make of the original Rollerball based on the short story and original screenplay by William Harrison. The original was made about thirty years ago and stared James Caan and John Houseman. I thought it was a sub-standard re-make, but it was still a very exciting, fast paced, chaos-munching film.
The original was better because it gave us a grander vision of a malevolent future world. In that movie the future world is the aftermath of the “corporate wars.” (International capitalist corporations had become more powerful than national governments. So, the corporations took over the world by fighting private wars for control of the world’s markets - a reflection in film of some of the social thinking and futurologist speculation of the 1970s.) To control the subjugated human population (i.e. remove or at least reduce the chaotic effects of criminal/violent/anti-social/psychopathic human behavior on the new society) the corporations collaborated to create and promote a new, ultra-violent sport,Rollerball, to serve as an outlet for all the human urges that might threaten the corporate harmony. (I have always felt that the movie was made in the 1970s because of the brief and widespread popularity of Rollerderby - televised rollerskating races on a small oval track. There were all-male and all-female teams, and they were stupidly violent - a white trash, trailer-park kind of entertainment. It still exists today, of course.) James Caan, playing Jonathan Cross (Chris Klein in the new movie) is the king of the game. He rises above the game to become a hero, which is exactly what the corporations do not want. Individualism is a no-no in the brave new world. The corporate philosophy cannot abide an individual. There fore, a conspiracy is hatched to alter the games rules (what few of them there are) and orchestrate the demise (death) of Jonathan. Jonathan survives and rises above it, however, and therein is the greatness and excitement of the original movie. It is all very sinister and exciting.
But this re-make is noting like that. It lacks the comic book super-villainy of the original and simply wallows in everyday, mundane, greedy villainy. The game is set in the economic turbulence of post-communist central Asia, and Jean Reno plays a corrupt nouveau riche Russian mafia businessman, Petorvich, who is the king of the entertainment. Petrovich dreams of a cable contract with an American network. The new movie is about greed. For that reason it is not as good as the old movie which was about clashing political/economic empires in a world gone mad.
Gothic thrasher music by bands like Slipnot (which appear in the movie as themselves) sets the tone and the pace. It is loud and very fast action. If you like that kind of thing then you might like this movie, but it didn’t turn me on.