from Film Forum, 02/14/02
Rollerball brought noise, chaos, violence, and extreme sports to the big screen this week in a reckless remake of the Norman Jewison sci-fi film from 1975. The movie focuses on a team of athletes who engage in a dangerous futuristic sport, exploiting violent play in order to earn high ratings for heartless entertainment execs. (Sounds like the February/March film calendar!) This updated edition stars Chris Klein (Election) and Rebecca Romijn-Stamos (X-Men) as team players who share the court, the locker room, and too much more. Director John McTiernan built a reputation on standard-setting action films like Die Hard. Rollerball is apparently not one of his best works.
Phil Boatwright (The Movie Reporter) says, "The dialogue is trite when not melodramatic, the acting lackluster when not hammy, and the plot far less developed than Ms. Romijn-Stamos."
"To market this film to teens is extremely irresponsible," writes Douglas Downs (Christian Spotlight).
Paul Bicking (Preview, The Dove Foundation) cautions parents about the severe nature of this PG-13 flick: "Minor moral moments fail to overcome the barrage of violent scenes and frequent vulgarities in Rollerball."
Bob Smithouser (Focus on the Family) says, "Rollerball glories in the same vulgar excesses as its characters. Why does junk like this keep getting made? To quote a character in the film, 'If they'll buy it, I'll sell it.' Let's hope young moviegoers aren't buying."
Mainstream critics agree. Roger Ebert writes, "Rollerball is an incoherent mess, a jumble of footage in search of plot, meaning, rhythm and sense." He goes on to point out some of the film's laughable, ludicrous lapses in logic.
Michael Wilmington (Chicago Tribune) says, "The 1975 Rollerball … a big, sterile sci-fi epic … was a cinematic masterpiece next to this one. McTiernan's remake has no interesting characters or ideas, no style or substance and no intriguing contemporary riffs. Even worse, it mostly lacks McTiernan's specialty: great razzle-dazzle action scenes. It's dull, spiritless, silly and monotonous: an ultra-loud blast of pointless mayhem, going nowhere fast."
Gary Thompson (Philadelphia Daily News) says, "Rollerballis as bad as you think, and worse than you can imagine." He looks hard at the film for some kind of message: "Violence is bad, you see, and [the hero] must put an end to it by smashing [the villain] in the face with a steel ball, hitting him with a footstool and shooting another guy with a shotgun. That'll teach him."
Likewise, MaryAnn Johanson (The Flick Filosopher) says, "The point … seems to be 'Violence is okay, as long as you're beating up the right people.'"