Rollerball

Bomb Rating: 

Watching the XFL wasn't this bad.

I don't know how long this movie sat on the shelf, but it's been a long time. There was a reason. One wonders just how bad a movie has to get before a studio takes a hard look at it and announces, "We're just not going to inflict this abortion of a film on the hapless public because, frankly, it sucks harder than Anna Nicole Smith in a room full of millionaires." I mean, generally speaking, if you're at the supermarket and they've discovered a head of lettuce is filled with maggots, they don't sell it to you. Most manufacturers would recall teddy bears if they were discovered to be stuffed with asbestos and razor blades. When is Hollywood, instead of shelving its offal and awaiting changes in culture, simply going to dispose of it?

It's hard for me to write the following sentence, but I'm just going to steel myself and type it: Chris Klein is like Keanu Reeves without any talent. There. I've said it. Frankly, I have a hard time even comprehending that sentence and its terrible implications. I look at it and I start to feel the fifth dimension caving in on me. I don't think it's a sentence that was ever meant to be written. It somehow defies the bounds of reality. Yet, it's true. Klein plays Jonathan Cross, the greatest Rollerball player ever.

The filmmakers took extra care to make the Rollerball story as convoluted as possible. What's wrong with setting the damn thing a few years in the future in America like the original? Instead, Rollerball is some kind of Central Asian sport and has some kind of political significance that's only partially explained. Alexi Petrovich (Jean Reno) owns the team and is trying to swing some kind of cable deal, so things start getting more violent. Jonathan's friend, Marcus (LL Cool J), convinces him they need to leave, but they can't.

Jonathan falls for the motorcycle driver, Aurora, who does bicep curls in the nude for some reason. That reason, however, is not to show Rebecca Romijn-Stamos's breasts. Director John McTiernan serves up a scene where a topless Rebecca approaches Jonathan, but it's so dark we can't see a thing. It's like featuring a double-decker hot fudge sundae on the menu and then serving it under a huge pile of alfalfa sprouts. Why even bother? A restauranteur could get hurt doing that sort of thing.

There are more cutaway shots stuffed into this movie than should be allowed by law, which means that at any given moment the film is showing a Rollerball announcer yelling "that's gotta hurt!" Watching the XFL wasn't this bad. And when McTiernan isn't filming the announcer, he's showing the Rollerball scenes by focusing the camera on the floor or on somebody's helmet. There isn't a moment in the film where you can tell what's going on. By the end, the players aren't even playing by the rules they set out in the beginning.

The "best" part of this entire disaster is the 15-minute "night vision" sequence when Jonathan and Marcus try to escape. Words fail me. It's just one of those things you watch with your mouth half open while drool spills out onto your lap. The whole thing looks like it was shot through a cheap pair of night vision goggles � everything's green and black and fuzzy. This despite the fact that no one in the movie is actually wearing night vision goggles, so it's not clear whose viewpoint it's supposed to be. I guess it seemed like a good idea at the time. Either that or the studio had shut off the power to the set by that point and McTiernan had no other choice.

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