Scifi remake of the 1975 Norman Jewison movie by the same name. In 2005, corporations rule the world and the new sport is Rollerball - a high-impact combination of roller derby, rugby, motorcycle racing and pure violence, where ratings are more important than players.
Directed by John McTiernan (Predator, Die Hard, The Thirteenth Warrior), this movie is chock-full of action (as you would expect from McTiernan), although the plot does leave a little to be desired. Jonathan Cross (Chris Klein) is a do-anything sort of daredevil: at the beginning of the movie, he's racing a street luge through Seattle streets (and traffic) when he bumps into an old friend of his, Marcus Ridley (LL Cool J), who invites him to join the Rollerball circuit. Jonathan's not so eager to leave everyone he knows, but when he sees the cops are waiting at his apartment for him, it doesn't take him long to make the decision. Months later, Jonathan has become everyone's favourite "good-ol' boy" Rollerball hero. Known for his recklessness and daring moves, shouts of "Jo--na--than! Jo--na--than!" raise the roof at every game. Unfortunately, as Jonathan soon discovers, players are expendable for the sake of ratings - but when he wants to get out before more people get hurt, he learns that he's expendable, too.
The rules (yes, there are rules) of the game are as follows: Each player is outfitted in light body armour, helmets and rollerblades (except for one player on each team who gets a motorcycle instead of 'blades). The track is a figure-eight, with a ramp and a jump over the middle. A target sits to the audience-side of the middle of the crossover. A solid-steel ball is shot out along the the track, and must be picked up and carried through a complete circuit of the track (including the ramp) before being hurled at the target at a high velocity. Hitting other players is only allowed to dislodge the ball from their control. Fouls are met with time in the penalty box - not that there are many fouls called.
Frenetic and violent, the action sequences in this movie are not unlike the strobe-light effects at a rave, combined with some pretty heavy bass-driven music ("The audience is now deafened") to create a raw energy-filled synergy that makes you want to jump over barriers and start a riot. The games move quickly (don't blink!), but with good pacing. Outside of the games, there are also some great car-chase and high-speed motorcycle scenes for the speed-freak in all of us. Add a little gun-play, and you've got yourself a great action flick!
I actually did enjoy this movie, despite the onionskin-thin plot, and amazingly weak character development (our introduction to most characters is combined with an inset shot of their bio - and that was about all we ever learn about them). The action sequences more than make up for it by dominating the movie to the point that you almost don't notice the minimalist plot. One of the things I really enjoyed (besides the visually appealing Rebecca Romijn-Stamos also known as Mystique in the box-office smash X-Men), were the costumes of the players. Each team had its own uniform colours and each player's helmet was customized for them, making the players look both unified and unique at the same time.
Keanu Reeves-lookalike Chris Klein, (also known for his role as Oz in American Pie) made a great "All-American boy" character, but still manages to be serious enough to believe during the finale, and he has great support from LL Cool J - who puts in a surprisingly good performance as the team captain. Jean Reno, the seductively evil villain from Mission Impossible also puts in a great performance as the team owner - equal parts charm and sleaze, shaken not stirred. The other entertainment comes from the only real narration we get - the near-constant patter of the sportscaster, who I could have sworn was played by a chubby Paul Rodriguez, but according to IMDB was actually Guy Ale.
If you haven't seen this at the theatre, it's not going to kill you - there are no Academy Award-winning performances here. On the other hand, the action makes it well worth the price of a rental.