Alexi Petrovich (Jean Reno) hopes to bring his international game of Rollerball to the Americas with a little help from his league of pin-up heroes-cum-gladiators. Jonathan (Chris Klein) is the “doofus-ass white-boy” who strikes a nerve with the girlies and takes back the game once Rollerball reveals itself as a rating’s whorehouse. While its character relationships are one-note and transitional elements ridiculously fast-paced, the so-bad-it’s-fun Rollberball still feels like the dopiest, punchiest studio satire since Starship Troopers. It’s a real man’s league, which means women warriors like the Dutch Aurora (Rebecca Romijn-Stamos) do double time as testosterone-squashers and diva-vipers. It’s no wonder then that her motorcycle-riding Black Widow sounds like a drunk supermodel—she calls the game’s antics “cowboy hotdog dogshit.” The film’s moral tagline couldn’t be more concise: “If they’ll buy it, I’ll sell it.” Director John McTiernan morphs his Nü Metal version of American Gladiators into a kind of cultural disease that feeds on the poverty and false hopes of the underprivileged (here, the people of Russia and Gobi are struck with Atlantic City Syndrome). Fiercely techno-hungry and seemingly in love with its own fascination with pop culture, Rollerball effectively turns its titular game into a relentlessly repetitive and inescapable train wreck cinema (indeed, the playing field is in the shape of an infinity symbol, the game observed by priests and scholars). There is one major Achilles’ heel: having caved to studio pressure sometime after 9/11, McTiernan has shamelessly underplayed the film’s skank factor. Reno may have his fur coat but so does everyone else. By keeping the sex and blood on the down-low, McTiernan lessens the stakes just as he expects his audience to take Rollerball as a global monster that turns sex and blood into rating’s fireworks.
It didn't look like it'd be possible yet Rollberball manages to look and play considerably better on the small screen thanks to a stunning 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. Sure, the scenes within the Rollerball rinks are stylistically out of whack yet the colors are pitch-perfectly saturated. The film is very much a mess of styles though every look (that of the green night-vision sequence and the sleek blue-toned slide-down-hills) is incredibly detailed. A pointless 4:3 pan & scan version is included on the flipside. The dynamic range on the disc's Dolby Digital 5.1 surround mix is incredibly robust. From the film's techno beats to the sound of bones crunching against walls, this is an aggressive yet appropriate transfer.
Better than the Rollerball DVD's killer interactive menus is the clever Yearbook section which makes the Rollerball experience not unlike collecting baseball cards: meet the Heavy Hitters and Petrovich's Players; learn about the Horsemen, the Golden Horde, the Hawks and the Marauders inside the Teams section; take a peek at all the Rollerball gear; and take a trip through the different parts of the Rollerdome. "The Stunts of Rollerball" is an engaging 21-minute documentary that shows Chris Klein and the film's actors "learning to perform credibly" on the rink with the help of experts and Olympic Oval trainers. Also included here is Rob Zombie's "Never Gonna Stop" music video, the film's theatrical and teaser trailers and spots for "Stargate SG-1" and "Jeremiah." The Horsemen commentary track with actors Chris Klein, Rebecca Romijn-Stamos and LL Cool J is lots of fun (it begins with Romijn-Stamos declaring "Suddenly I just want to talk dirty") despite LL Cool J's discordant presence (his commentary was recorded separately and sounds as if he's been directed from inside the film's Rollerdome). The actors address the joys of playing with toys but never tackle the film's critical lambasting. A more critical though not necessarily apologetic director John McTiernan would have provided a more insightful commentary.
For the half dozen people who actually liked Rollerball, this DVD edition is a keeper.