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Published on June 1st, 2008 | by simeon

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Rollerball

In centuries past, people would flock to violent spectator sports to watch contestants stage bloody battles to appease the bloodlust of the public. While many of the Emperors believed that they were simply giving the people what they wanted, others believed it was a brutal and barbaric practice that had no place in a civilized and enlightened society.
As the ages past, sporting events became less deadly, but the spectacle remained illustrating just how prophetic the ancient emperors were as they understood that basic human nature does not change and knew what to give the masses. While many like to look at the Modern Age as a less violent and more enlightened age, sports such as hockey, football, and boxing deliver action and violence to packed arenas of fans, who cheer louder with each bone crunching blow.
In the 1970’s the threat of technology and large corporations was the inspiration behind many cautionary tales from “Westworld” to “Rollerball” where the reliance on technology, and the loss of individual control were the main themes. The original “Rollerball” started James Caan in a cautionary tale of a world where corporations ruled, and had control over every aspect of a person including where and with whom they lived. It was a look at a society that Cold-War Americans looked upon as a chilling reminder of what could happen if Communism was to spread, and people lost the right to make their own choices.
There is an old saying of what once was old shall be new again, and movies are no exception. Action director John McTiernan has put aside his “Die Hard” style films in an effort to bring “Rollerball” into the present age. The film stars Chris Klein as Jonathan Cross. The best of the best in a new sport that combines, skating, hockey, motor cross, and spectacle to the delight of crowds the world over. The sport is the creation of Alexi Petrovich (Jean Reno), a former heavy in Communist Russia who has embraced capitalism and the good life. Petrovich is attempting to get a national cable deal in the US for his sport, and travels with his team to various third world nations to stage matches and gain investors for his sport. All seems well as Jonathan and his friend Marcus Ridley (LL Cool J), are making good money, and are loved by the masses as the popularity of the sport grows. Jonathan also has a secret romance with the sexy Aurora (Rebecca Romijn-Stamos), and basks in his good fortune. All is not as it seems when a player is injured during a match. While injuries are part of the sport, this injury seems odd when it is learned that a helmet strap was cut, and that ratings quadrupled after replays of the injury were shown from multiple angles. Soon, all sorts of bizarre accidents start to happen and Jonathan and his friends are fighting not only for the truth, but also for their very lives.
While the setup for the film looks to be an action-thriller, the film is a disjointed mess of quick cutting MTV style segments. The majority of the film is frantic action in the arena with blaring music and wild visuals. It plays more like a promo for the XFL than it does an action segment. Worse yet is the character development, as the non-arena scenes seem to be little more than an afterthought and the pacing of the story and delivery of the lines is worse than a Freshman High School production. Klein, and Stamos have little chemistry, and LL Cool J is not seen nearly enough in the film. Reno is good in his role, but he is given nothing to work with and comes across as little more than a stock heavy. While one segment of the film was shot with night vision lenses, it was far to little innovation to save what could have been an entertaining film. The film was edited to get a PG-13 rather than an R rating, but I doubt that the inclusion of nudity and violence would have been enough to save this dud. The messages of self-determination, loyalty, and honor are lost, as the emphasis was entirely on the skating scenes, but with little setup for the characters, the audience cares little for them, and you will care even less for the film.

1 star out of 5


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