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Reel Critics

Same name, bad game

Peter Fuertes is a news editor for the News-Press and Burbank Leader.

Its title is the same. So is the game the movie title is based on, for

the most part. But that’s where most of the similarities end between the

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2002 version of “Rollerball” and its 1975 counterpart.

The original film, which starred James Caan, became a cult classic,

mainly because of its roller-derby action, and its eerie foreshadowing of

corporations controlling a sport.

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This version stars Chris Klein -- also named Jonathan, as Caan’s

character was -- as a National Hockey League prospect who has a penchant

for participating in illegal street-luge races.

Longtime friend Marcus Ridley (LL Cool J) saves Jonathan from getting

arrested -- and coerces him to play in a sport sweeping across Central

Asia -- Rollerball (think of a mix between hockey, ESPN’s extreme-sport

spectacle X-Games and a game similar to that in the Arnold Schwarzenegger

film, “The Running Man.”).

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The angle of corporations taking over the sport has also been redone.

Now, the sport’s bigwig (Jean Reno) wants to make sure the television

ratings for Rollerball stay near the top by upping the game’s violence

quotient, putting the lives of the players in danger.

Unfortunately, unlike the 1975 film, this version doesn’t have much

originality. The relationship development between Jonathan, his doomed

friend Marcus and love interest Aurora (Rebecca Romijin-Stamos) is

cookie-cutter material from most made-for-cable-television movies.

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Worse yet, the sporadic editing of the movie -- which tries to set a

frenetic pace with its split-second timing -- ranges from unsteady to

downright bad, specifically toward the film’s violent end (perhaps cut

down to give the film its PG-13 rating).

Plot highly predictable

Michael T. Giovanniello of Burbank is a freelance writer.

This film is not so much a remake as it is a retelling. Although the

plot is highly predictable, a thrilling opening sequence catapults you

into the year 2018 and into a world ruled by corporations, exploited by

media and placated by blood sports.

Chris Klein gives a notable performance supported aptly by Jean Reno,

LL Cool J. and Rebecca Romijn-Stamos.

Director John McTiernan delivers a tightly knit action drama filled

with recognizable images from today’s media, including a fascinating

night escape sequence seen in the now familiar green light of night

vision optics.

A bevy of villains lurk in the background supplying nearly every scene

with innuendo and knowing glances.

“Rollerball” is rated PG-13.


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