Rollerball (2002)

“Smile and take the money. Smile and take the money.”

The Scoop: 2002 R, directed by John McTiernan and starring Chris Klein, Jean Reno, LL Cool J, and Rebecca Romijn

Tagline: Get In The Game.

Summary Capsule: In a not-too-distant future, Chris Klien and his big metal ball defy the nasty evil corporations of Russia by not playing a really violent game when they tell him to. Hang on, that sounds kinda familiar…

Rich’s rating: I’m sorry, TV made me do it.

Rich’s review: Serendipity, as well as being a great name for a girl or a small town in middle America in which normal life is disturbed by cataclysmic events of a supernatural evil kind, is a wonderful thing. Sometimes, things just fall into place, and we realise that we are all part of some great cosmic plan and we’re left with little choice but to follow along.

I’m not quite sure what higher purpose the appearance of the 2002 remake of Rollerball on my cable TV schedules only weeks after I reviewed the original has, but since there are obviously forces at work here that I don’t understand, I had little choice but to bow to the inevitable. Perhaps it’s some form of divine punishment for past or future transgressions… because seriously, it’s not like you’d make someone you like watch this film. So, whether it be fate, or a justly deserved punishment, I sat down to watch the remake of Rollerball not only knowing how bad it was, but having already seen it once before.

So, before we launch into the remake, lets remind ourselves about the original; 1975 classic sci-fi film with James Caan, where a corporate hero becomes too powerful — resisting the capitalist/socialist system that made him a star, James Caan defies the wishes of the people who “made” him by continuing to be an inspiration to the fans of the game Rollerball.

Try to remember that; because believe me when I say that nothing in this remake will actually remind you of the original with the exception of the very silly game that they still play with motorcycles, rollerblades and big metal balls.

Our remake of Rollerball changes just about everything it can about the original; instead of being set in a corporate controlled future, we’re instead transplanted to new-democratised and desperately corrupt Russia, where Russian mobster Alexis Petrovich (played by Jean Reno, and of whom more later) is trying hard to get a world-wide cable deal for his exciting new product, which just happens to be a silly game of motorcycles and metal balls. Incidentally, in one of the few things that is true to the original, the rules are still just a mess of nonsense designed to justify people hurting each other in creative ways with a variety of props; however, its no longer an outlet for the repressed emotions of a dominated people. It’s just ‘good TV’. And goodness knows, I know there’s nothing I like more than seeing people get run over by motorcycles.

Anyway, with Rollerball becoming popular in the former Soviet states, enter our erstwhile hero Jonathan Cross (Chris Klien; you know, the jock guy from American Pie). Jonathan wants to be drafted for the NHL, but all the NHL coaches want him to play defense. So instead of taking the multi-million dollar deal he would no doubt be getting in compensation for skating into people for fun and profit, he instead resolves that he will wait until he gets picked for a shooting role in the NHL; and in the meantime, he’ll take $250 payoffs to sled through rush hour traffic in San Francisco on a glorified skateboard. No, I’m not making this up. Yes, he is an idiot.

Fortunately for Jonathan, his old friend Ridley (LL Cool J) catches up with him before he can hurt himself too badly. Ridley is making a bunch of money playing Rollerball back East, and convinces Jonathan to give up playing Bleeding for Dollars and follow him back to mother Russia, where he quickly becomes a huge star. As well as making pots of money for himself and for corrupt mogul Alexis, Jonathan is also scoring regularly in a different way with hot team-mate Aurora, who’s played by the shapely Rebecca Romjin-Stamos.

Everything sounds peachy, right? Even the game itself is portrayed as more of a sport than mindless violence to begin with; but a number of “accidents” during the game which dramatically increase the worldwide viewing figures lead goody-goody crusader Jonathan to suspect that Alexis is deliberately making the game more dangerous just to get ratings. Jonathan and Ridley try to quit, and Alexis gets unhappy. Cue showdown between corrupt mogul and young idealistic player yada yada yada.

I’ve just realised that while laying out the plot, I’ve somehow managed to go a few paragraphs without being nasty to this film, so lets correct that. As far as remakes go, this bears about as much relation to the original as Justin does to the dictionary definition of a sane person; meaning that they both look the same from a distance, but you only have to compare the two for a few seconds to realise one of these things is not like the other. The original is a heavy-handed yet still well done political and social commentary; the remake is a great excuse to have a load of people in armour hit each other to the sounds of the latest rock/metal tunes.

Its not all completely awful though; I’d be remiss in my duties were I not to mention that Extreme Championship Wrestling former owner and current WWE (that’s wrestling as well) announcer Paul Heyman does an excellent job as the Rollerball commentator. Rebecca Romjin-Stamos is not only hot, but puts in another perfectly acceptable performance. Oh, and the players all have their player number tattooed under their left eye, which is kind of cool, and Naveen Andrews as Alexis’ creepy assistant Sanjay is pretty funny. But that’s it; all the good things I could think of.

Rollerball 2002 manages to be bad on so many levels, it’s possibly some kind of record. Let’s ignore for the moment that the actual game, which you would think would be the centrepiece of the film, is relegated to clip-montage fodder. Let’s also try and forget the fact that Jean Reno’s accent in the film had me firmly convinced that his character was French rather than Russian for a good two-thirds of the film. Let’s move along from the fact that Chris Klein is about as convincing a rebel as Kyle is convincing as a woman (and believe me, the pictures don’t do him justice at all). The real tragedy of Rollerball is that someone, somewhere took a classic sci-fi film from the 1970’s and turned it into a music video action movie for the MTV generation; all style, no substance.

Another thrilling performance by the spider-man display team
Another thrilling performance
by the spider-man display team


  • This is another remake from John McTiernan of a film originally directed by Norman Jewison. The first was The Thomas Crown Affair.
  • Jean Reno’s character introduces a man named Enzo Molinari, which is the name of the character he played in Le Grand bleu
  • Rollerball is referred to as “sports entertainment” — the current euphemism for professional wrestling.
  • McTiernan recycled the players, disguising their faces with elaborate costumes and helmets for each away game. With each new game they improved and worked better as teams.
  • The band playing during one of the games is Slipknot. They did not actually star in the movie however, but they were recorded during one of their performances and digitially added into the movie.
  • Eye number tattoos are cool.
  • How every team’s armour makes them look like rejects from American Gladiators.
  • How did Aurora get her scar? Colliding face first with a razor sharp letter ‘S’?
  • Blink and you’ll miss it and completely pointless cameo by Shane McMahon, son of WWE owner Vince McMahon.

Groovy Quotes

[Jonathan and Aurora are lying naked on a bench in their locker room]
Jonathan: Do you think just once we could do this in a house? You know, with a bed?

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One comment

  1. rollerball fun movie jean reno is great in this movie petrovich is great jean reno is a great actor

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