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ROLLERBALL still sucks'

Harry here... Recently a lot of press has been calling me in regards to ROLLERBALL because of the infamous trip that McTiernan took me to see a roughcut, where I was very very hard on the film. They seem to want me to rail against the movie due to some feeling of making it news, but I've been hesitant to do so, because what I saw was an early cut. The only reason I reviewed it on the page was because McTiernan said for me to write about how I felt about the film on the page. Now I hated what I saw, but McTiernan is an extremely talented filmmaker. He did get 2 weeks of additional shooting to make the film better. He did get time to reedit and do more post. He had the ability to enhance the film through effects, musical scoring and additional photography. He could make the games less confusing. He could add character moments to make it all seem less shallow. Personally I felt there were some design problems with then revamping of the game that would never be able to be cured, but I was hopeful that the film would be able to become watchable. WELL, after the following review, I recommend probably checking the film out on DVD, because at least there they might show you the hardcore violence that has been cut and the digital shadows used to mask Rebecca Romijn-Stamos might be removed. Overall it seems the action has not been clarified and the game is everybit as confusing as it was before. I'm still planning on seeing it this Friday so I can write a follow-up review to the preview screening that McTiernan gave me. But I am not expecting much. Here's the review...

Hey, just saw a press screening of Rollerball today. Although I known it's been reviewed in the past, I just wanted to point out things I thought had been cut to make it a PG-13 movie:

--A visit to a strip club contains no nudity

--In a gym, Rebecca Romijn-Stamos is seen lifting weights topless, although you can only see her back. Later in the scene, you see her nude, although her body is obscured by shadows.

-- The Rollerball sequences contain very little blood.

-- Chris Klein and LL Cool J get in cars to go to the strip club as if they are ready to race, but arrive at the strip club moments later.

-- In the end as Chris Klein fights Jean Reno, his face looks smeared with goopy looking make-up instead of looking bloody.

Here is my review of it, if you want it:

A remake of the 1975 original starring James Caan ("Misery"), "Rollerball" deals with three star players on the Rollerball circuit: Jonathon Cross (Chris Klein from "American Pie"), Marcus Ridley (LL Cool J from "Deep Blue Sea"), and Aurora (Rebecca Romijn-Stamos from "X-Men"). The game Rollerball involves two teams competing against each other by skating or biking around an arena, fighting off other players while attempting to sink the ball into the goal. Is Rollerball manager Petrovich (Jean Reno from "Godzilla") responsible for the higher carnage in the show, or are the ratings improving because of its wholesome quality the whole family can enjoy?

After getting off to a promising start with an unrelated downhill race through a crowded street, the first Rollerball match begins. After enjoying it for the first five minutes, tedium soon in set as the match went on for almost twenty minutes. Even worse is the frantic editing, making it near impossible to tell what is going on. "Rollerball" goes downhill quickly after this first match with a few more matches sprinkled between a boring chase scene filmed in night-vision and an inane ending that overuses slow-motion. Any plot twists the movie has are predictable.

As for the acting, Chris Klein plays the same part he always does-the happy jock who has a stupid grin plastered on his face. LL Cool J acts as a sort of comic relief, acting extremely relaxed the entire time even though chaos is happening all throughout the movie. Jean Reno has little to do but snicker from an executive seating area and manages to bring nothing special to his part. The only actor in the movie who did a decent job was Rebecca Romijn-Stamos, who brings out emotion in her character at different points in the movie, although her accent sounds like Natasha from "Rocky and Bullwinkle."

The directing by John McTiernan ("Die Hard") is average at best. In the opening scene there is a good attempt at conveying motion from a first person perspective; perhaps this should have been used in the Rollerball matches. The Rollerball matches themselves are difficult to understand with the frantic editing. One scene has a Rollerball match intercut with a band playing at random moments in the game, proving disconcerting at best.

Although this movie is rated PG-13, supposedly it was meant to be rated R and released in Summer 2001. I think an R rating would have helped "Rollerball" a lot. The Rollerball matches feel oddly muted with a lack of blood and gore, and a visit to a strip club ends up being surprisingly tame. I was surprised they got away with showing a nude Rebecca Romijn-Stamos covered by shadows, but this movie skirts the hard edge of the PG-13 rating.

Throughout the entire movie, there is very little development of the characters. Between Rollerball matches, characters are either chased, in the locker room, or interviewed by reporters. Most characters seem flat and lifeless, making one care about their plight less and less. Apparently the original film has more of a political satiric edge to it, which might have benifitted this film as well. The running time is around an hour and forty minutes, but feels overly long, especially in its second half.

About the only good part in "Rollerball" is how it tried to display the international popularity of the sport. Bizzare commercials between breaks in the games are displayed, reporters are shown speaking different languanges throughout the matches, and much of the instant replays and such are done in Russian with no sub-titles. This unique atmosphere brings a little bit of flavor to the matches as opposed to setting the movie in a standard American stadium.

The music in "Rollerball" is nothing special. The sound effects are well done though, making good use of surround sound during the different matches. The different designs for the Rollerball players looked a bit goofy at times. The make-up on Klein during the finale looked like mud instead of the blood it was supposed to represent. Most of the CG in the movie was not very noticeable, although there is one sequence with fire where the flames look rather fake.

"Rollerball" might be enjoyable in a trashy action movie way, like "Swordfish" was. It just is very bland and might warrant a rental if you are into this kind of genre.

Call me Deshrill.

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