Published Feb 01, 2002"Rollerball" is an interesting look into the future at a world that is controlled by the corporate world and infatuated by a violent game, a hybrid of football, hockey, motocross and gladiator fighting on roller skates known as Rollerball. The film shows how easy it is to be swept up in fame, money and power, and how everything and everyone can easily turn against you once you gain some ethics and begin to ask questions. The action scenes are brutal, violent and bloody, and the costume design is everything you want the future to look like (bell bottoms, open-chested shirts, cleavage and a whole lotta polyester). Okay, enough about the 1975 Norman Jewison film, let's get to the 2002 version.
There couldn't possibly be a logical explanation as to why John McTiernan ("Die Hard," "The Last Action Hero") made this film. The story of the original film is fairly interesting, but he doesn't even follow it. Instead of using the future, screenwriters Larry Ferguson and John Pogue use modern day Kazakhstan, a poor, third world country that relies on this dangerous sport for kicks, as the setting. The sport is a betting haven and cable network diamond mine, filled with corruption and murder, all at the hands of its creator, the evil Petrovich (Jean Reno). Enter Jonathan Cross (Chris Klein) and Marcus Ridley (LL Cool J), Rollerball's two most exciting players. Earning ten times what they would make in the US, Cross and Ridley soon figure out something is wrong once people start getting injured and even killed in the game.
While the danger and action sequences may seem appealing to some, beware: "Rollerball" is more of a borrowed idea than a remake. Nobody should see this because they liked the original. The sport itself is fast, ferocious and intense, containing the same type of careless action and nu-metal soundtrack as the successful "The Fast and the Furious," which is obviously the same audience McTiernan is shooting for. His choice of actors is sloppy, with Klein still giving us his worst Keanu Reeves impression, and LL and Rebecca Romijn-Stamos showing that they still see acting as their second or third jobs. Even the likeable Jean Reno wastes his talent, with the inability to match even an ounce of the evil and corruption the legendary John Houseman gave the role of the bad guy the first time around. The actors can't completely be at fault because the characters they were given are all one dimensional and unemotional robots. The main character of Jonathan has no depth at all, unlike the original, played by the much more talented James Caan. As Jonathan E., Caan not only faced a tyrant trying to have him killed, but also losing his wife, who was taken from him and reprogrammed without him in mind. His conflict with Bartholomew (Houseman) was resolved with a Rollerball victory, instead of a blood bath. Klein's character follows the typical Schwarzenegger role, unable to feel sadness but capable of destroying everything in his way until to get his revenge.
There really isn't anything redeeming about this film, besides the fast pace game of Rollerball, which is overshadowed by the poor acting and the loud noises. There are cameos by Pink, WWF submogul Shane McMahon and Slipknot and some really bad two-day stubble on Klein to look out for, but their amusement lasts for only seconds. Recommending this even as a good-laugh rental on one of those super-dull nights isn't even justifiable. "Rollerball" is a terrible, terrible film.