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.
- John McTiernan
- William Harrison, Larry Ferguson, John Pogue
- Chris Klein, Jean Reno, LL Cool J, Rebecca Romijn-Stamos, Naveen Andrews Pink, Mike Dopud, BT
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