Projections - Movie Reviews

Rollerball Rollerball

In a future darker dirty San Francisco, Chris Klein flat skateboards down the streets and hills which Steve McQueen's Bullitt chased bad guys on in 1968.  His skill gets him a job playing Rollerball in a middle eastern country that looks like Kyrgystan on the map.

In the original 1975 Rollerball James Caan was the performer on the track and John Houseman played the ruthless owner of the team and the league leader.  In this version, Klein is the young heroic player and Jean Reno (Mission Impossible and The Professional) is the owner who will order anything to gain world TV ratings.

The game is played with a six inch diameter steel ball which is shot onto a roller rink that flows in a figure eight.  A team scores when it carries the ball around the rink twice and then slams it against a steel concave plate.  The action of the game however is not sufficient to keep those almighty ratings high enough.  So we watch Reno and his cronies wink and blink just before a player is hurt in some violent fashion.  If getting hit in the head with a baseball hurts we can just imagine what a six inch steel ball can do to a head, and what it does for ratings.

The players are the heroes of the population who bet on the outcome of the games even though there is little money in the land for people to sustain a viable form of life.  It's the players who have the women, fast cars and live a decadent lifestyle.  The seeds of revolution exist on many levels.

While pure capitalism exists in what we know as a former USSR satellite with no checks and balances, Reno and his gang share profits with players and everyone else scrapes along.  That however doesn't effect Klein's character as much as the damage inflected upon his teammates.

At one point Klein and his lover Rebeca Romijn-Stamos, another team member who is framed by the camera as towering over all other players, decide they must leave if they want to survive the accelerating violence in the game.  At this point director John McTiernan films with an effective  green tint as they cross a desert at night giving the impression of night goggles used by the military as military types chase the two rollerballers.

But director McTiernan is most effective at keeping the film moving three feet off the ground.  It never rests and the skimpy script isn't noticeable because the action on the rink, in streets and on the desert overshadows everything else.

With LL Cool J serving as Klein's mentor and friend the motivation for revenge is delivered.  With the sensation of the very successful Fast and Furious filling the screen on skates, motorcycles and cars, Rollerball has an audience waiting for it.  And that audience will not be disappointed with this aggressive exaggerated satire of sports, ratings and advertising.


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