From the director of Die Hard comes this high-octane thriller that "roars along at a ... breakneck pace" (Los Angeles Times)! Starring Chris Klein (American Pie), Jean Reno (Ronin), LL Cool J (Charlie's Angels) and Rebecca Romijn-Stamos (X-Men), Rollerball goes full-throttle with excitement from its death-defying opening until its explosive end!
Jonathan Cross (Klein) is the newest recruit in the most extreme sport of all time - where his fast moves and killer looks make him an instant superstar. But Cross' life in the fast lane collides with reality when he learns that the leagues owner (Reno) is orchestrating serious on-court "accidents" to boost ratings. Now Cross plans to take down the owner and his ruthless sport... before the game puts an end to him.
Chris Klein, you magnificent bastard!
After teasing us with strong performances in 'Election' and 'American Pie,' coming out of nowhere to steal numerous scenes from more established and recognizable actors, you turned into one of the flat out worst actors in Hollywood, so bad that you weren't even welcomed back to the third 'Pie' film, a series not exactly known for being picky. You stunk up the screen in the worst of ways in the Farrelly Brothers' 'Say It Isn't So,' distractingly hammed it up in 'Just Friends,' and made a comedy out of an action film in the epic 'Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li.' But your greatest crime, the one you will be remembered for, for the rest of your life, is the assault on public taste known as 'Rollerball.'
Jonathan Cross (Klein) is an extreme gamer with a future in the NHL, who decides to take a different career choice at the urging of friend Marcus Ridley (LL Cool J), heading to the international sporting world of 'Rollerball.' Cross instantly becomes the face of the sport, earning millions of dollars and fans, but owner Alexis Petrovich (Jean Reno) wants more. More power. More ratings. After in game injuries and accidents are orchestrated in an attempt to get more viewership, Cross becomes aware of his situation, and tries to escape...but in the world of 'Rollerball,' there is no escape!!! There are only big metal balls, bloodthirsty adversaries, and if one crosses Petrovich's path...no chance of survival!!!
The remake/reimagining of the 1975 James Caan actioner of the same name, 'Rollerball' fails on an epic scale. The casting of Klein is the most obvious shortcoming. After playing soft, bubbly, low IQ jocks, the jump to action sports star was too much from the guy who can hardly make more than one face. Much like a puppy dog, Klein can't express anger, sadness, fear, anything. He's pretty good at expressing that he's Chris Klein, but even then I'm sure there's some actor who could do it better.
The film has been derided as one of the worst ever made, an unnecessary remake, marred with unimaginative action sequences, a pathetic plot, ridiculous performances, poor editing, and a real lack of a definitive voice or point. Watch 'Rollerball' and tell me there's a reason this film exists, I dare you.
Sure, the film is an analogy for power, uprising, class struggle, all that, but so was the original, so it's not like this is some new development or twist on the tale. It's regurgitation, pandering to the lowest common denominator. Watching the games, do we really need mock player cards when a player scores a point? I get it, the movie wants to simulate a broadcast of the actual sport.
The love plot between Klein and Rebecca Romijn (back when she had some Stamos in there, as well) is laughable, while the chemistry between Ridley and Cross is supposed to be the reason Cross is in the league, yet that point certainly isn't implied by how stale they seem with each other. The action is equally lame brained, as is the entire point of Petrovich's plot that drives the conflict. Sure, violence and injuries in sports get people watching, but it's not like an incident brings immediate viewership the minute it happens. It takes time for sports networks to report on the incident and replay it, as does it take internet chatter to be received. Besides, on the net, wouldn't people just stream it, or click on the videos of the incident, preventing elevated ratings? If the sport got more views with each broadcast it'd make sense, but immediate gore ratings is illogical. Perhaps that's fitting, an example of all the things wrong with 'Rollerball.'
Still, there are some redeeming qualities to be found. I've always enjoyed the commentary to each game provided by Paul Heyman (also known as Paul E. Dangerously) of ECW/WCW fame, and there's a pretty rocking soundtrack. There's also plenty of nudity (think 'Starship Troopers') to counterbalance the super machismo spewed out in the matches. Dialogue can be so bad it's funny, and the awesome Reno provides possibly the worst performance of his career. How is that redeeming? Like a train wreck, it keeps eyes on the screen, and butts in their seats.
'Rollerball' rumbles its way onto Blu-ray with an MPEG-2 (as in half of 4) encode at 1080p, in a transfer that doesn't do the film any justice...if any justice were ever to be had with this one.
Detail never sparkles, while contrast is flat, and skin tones are much like a porcelain toilet: often flushed. Delineation is poor, while blacks are too bright for their own good, and house some lovely artifacts. In the Rollerball matches, the rink and the players all look too drab, especially considering the brightness of the uniforms, lights, and arena. Debris is random, and not too concentrated, but the dirt is usually large (and in charge), while there are some larger scratches on the source as well.
Also worth noting in this wonderful release are moments where the video stutters, going into slow motion, then jumping ahead to where the film should be, removing about a second or two from the film (and it is near impossible to miss this!) around the 50 minute mark, and a nice bit of superimposed Heyman a few minutes later. What's better than one Paul E. Dangerously? Two, and we get it!
Also worth noting (no, this isn't a broken record), the film goes to night vision for a prolonged segment, and it looks awful! Detail disappears completely, and artifacts invade the picture. There's another brief superimposed moment, and an increased grain level. The entire sequence is borderline unwatchable, and when you realize it's 'Rollerball,' it's damn near enough to just turn the Blu-ray player off and be done with it. That is, of course, if anyone makes it that far into the film.
So, with all the failures that the video sported, how does the audio end of 'Rollerball' fare? Not anywhere near as bad, though it's certainly problematic. The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix sports a troubled balance, leading to a prolonged headache.
'Rollerball' is loud, in a distracting "hey look at me!" sort of way. The soundtrack seems prioritized above the dialogue, so the cringe-inducing factor of this release goes down a notch...can't shudder at words we can't make out clearly, can we?
Bass use was overblown in the soundtrack, but underutilized in the Rollerball matches, with motorcycles mostly running on high end, rather than hearty roars. Guitar and drum noise is completely drowned out, creating an uneven musical experience that gets grating too fast. The soundtrack jumps from speaker to speaker at times, a nice effect, while movement and localized rear effects were appreciable, especially with the in game motorcycles moving from channel to channel, though softly.
The dialogue randomly goes flat, and sometimes has a bit of feedback to it, occasionally thumping and thudding like a microphone were being hit during a line reading. Audiences are far too quiet, sounding twenty strong rather than two thousand. In other words, we have problems, but nowhere near as dramatic as those found in the video.
Here's where things get ugly, and considering all those low scores above this section, that's saying something.
Many of you are smart enough to keep this film, in any incarnation, at bay with a twenty foot stick. I, apparently, am not. I can't help it. I'd buy it again if it got a Blu-ray re-release. It's trash, but it's fun trash. Speaking of trash, everything about this Blu-ray is exactly that. Video, audio, extras, you name it. Skip it, and don't feel bad about it.