|As it sat on a shelf for almost two years, the actors in Rollerball must have wondered whether or not their film would be released before the events in the movie are supposed to take place. Occurring in 2005, Rollerball concerns the story of a one-time candidate for a National Hockey League team who gets in trouble with the law and must relocate to some God-forsaken Eastern European country to earn money by participating in the world's most dangerous and popular new sport.|
Rollerball is filled with unbelievable sequences of bad acting, bad scripting, and hilarious roller blading with a few motorcycles thrown in for good measure. The story could be considered prosaic and its lack of appreciable characters is certainly a large part of its downfall. Although there are many stunt sequences and a host of motorcycle inspired acrobatics, the story itself is just an unrealistic jumble scenes that don't allow any of the characters to be particularly likeable. It is a combination of the fact that Chris Klein cannot deliver his lines believable, and that his character is unsympathetic.
As are many of the other characters in Rollerball. Perhaps it's that none have enough of a back story connected to them and also do not engage the audience's feelings of empathy for their "plight." And quite a strange problem they have, as the characters in this film must spend all of their time cloaked in darkness. It's very hard to see what's happens, particularly during the roller derbies, but also during a peculiar sequence that involves a high speed chase between the characters played by Chris Klein, Jean Reno, and L L Cool J. During the night scene, the screen is entirely green, as if someone were wearing night vision goggles. It's almost impossible to understand what's going on for the length of the sequence.
And speaking of strange scenes, some of the sequences are actually laughable, like when Jean Reno's character, "Petrovich," yells violently about how he must get that television contract! With all the murder and mayhem going on, Jean's concerns over his precious contract and the money that will go with it seem overly melodramatic. And during much of the picture, while Rollerball games are taking place, shots of the "global rating" for the broadcasts keep being flashed over and over again. These hyper broadcasts and Jean Reno's concern over his television contract resemble something out of a "Saturday Night Live" sketch with a maniacal studio head foaming at the mouth over his ratings share.
Anyone who knows the details about how television-broadcasting works will probably get a good laugh out of all the commotion, and anyone who has no idea about the cutthroat industry will probably have no idea why so much time is spent on those stupid ratings. And viewers who have any story sense at all will wonder why at least half of this very short movie takes place on an ill-conceived "rollerball" track where it's as hard for the audience to understand what is occurring on screen as it is for the characters to make it clear what is going on. Tight shots and unintelligible language abound.
How can a director whose past triumphs include Die Hard, The Hunt for Red October, and Predator, put such a mistake of a film on the screen? John McTiernan has had more box office successes over the years, than he has had failures, and it is hard to see why this movie came together so badly. Sometimes when a film is released, and it is better than average, people say that "the right people came together at the right time." But for Rollerball, it is evident that the wrong filmmakers got together with the wrong actors at the most inopportune time.
Suffice it to say that this film has no elements that are worth recommending. That is quite a harsh criticism for a film, but it probably would have been in these filmmakers' best interests to shelve this film and leave it locked away in a vault forever. Add together the incomprehensible visuals and a poorly written script, the laughable situations and lower than average acting, and the viewer will find a film hardly worth watching unless the objective in watching it is to have a good laugh. To make a film that fails on so many levels is really quite a feat, as it is hard to mess up everything in a film. But one need only watch the first ten minutes of the film to see in what a mundane and prosaic fashion it presents itself.
Review by Kelsey Wyatt.