Friday, 21 August 2015

Rollerball (2002)

At the risk of being considered a philistine, I like this (critically derided) remake a lot more than I do the original 1975 film.  I found the earlier movie unbearably tedious, and James Caan's lead character just plain unbearable.

Now this is not to say that the remake is exactly a good film.  The script is at best ham-fisted and at worst out and out stupid.  On the other hand, "stupid" has never been enough by itself to make me dislike a movie, at least not if I can engage with something else.  And this version of Rollerball offers two significant advantages over the original.  The first is relatively likable leads.  Chris Klein's protagonist is a cocky punk, it's true, but he's a cocky punk with his heart in the right place.  That's not something I would say about the James Caan character, whose motives and actions are much murkier.  LL Cool J, meanwhile, is entertaining as ever in the 'sidekick' role.

The second advantage is director John McTiernan's eye for action sequences.  The actual rollerball matches are kinetic extravaganzas.  The game's pitch might not make a lick of sense and be practical only in a movie where every move can be repeated until it is right, but they're good fun to watch and relatively easy to follow.  Would that more action films had such clear direction.

The remake also has a few other advantages - some neat cameos, and a great soundtrack - but they're much more minor in scope.

The basic plot is that a cocky, rebellious punk becomes a champion player of violent, underground sport 'rollerball'.  However, as the financiers of the sport become more and more greedy in their pursuit of lucrative media contracts they look for more spectacle and blood, and the pitch becomes more and more like a literal battleground.

Like I said, this is a dumb film (though so was the original).  If that doesn't bother you too much, and you just want to see an action flick where the cartoonishly evil bad guys eventually get their comeuppance, you could do a lot worse.

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