Rollerball (15)

Review by Jack Foley

HAVING already plundered the Norman Jewison back catalogue for his remake of The Thomas Crown Affair, Die Hard director John McTiernan does it again for Rollerball - only this time with disastrous results.

Whereas the Thomas Crown re-working came across as slick, intelligent and ultra-sexy, Rollerball appears as vacuous, tedious, pointless and ultra-noisy.

Jewison’s 1975 original (which starred James Caan) envisaged a future run by corporations in which the blood-lust of the masses was satisfied with extreme sports such as Rollerball. McTiernan’s remake (starring American Pie’s Chris Klein) envisages nothing, and merely serves as a lame excuse for poorly conceived set-pieces and casual violence.

By turning up the volume at every opportunity (his soundtrack features the likes of Slipknot and Rob Zombie), McTiernan manages to reduce most of the proceedings to pop video format or, worse still, an extended advertising sequence; during which players must pose a certain way when taking a drink break so that the camera can catch what is being marketed.

Needless to say, plot takes a distant back seat as Klein’s hotshot player, Jonathan Cross, travels to Central Asia to take part in the get-rich-quick event with his life-long friend, LL Cool J, and love interest, Rebecca Romijn-Stamos; only to find himself at the mercy of Jean Reno’s unscrupulous sports promoter who will do whatever it takes to maintain audience ratings - no matter what cost to the players.

Gone, however, is the wry observation of Jewison’s sci-fi classic, replaced instead by a lot of shouting and some truly lame performances. Reno, in particular, is laughably bad as the money-fixated villain, sporting a comic Bruce Grobbelaar-like appearance and spewing bad lines like there was no tomorrow.

But he is in good company. Klein, still attempting to out-Keanu Mr Reeves himself, has neither the presence or the physicality to put forward a convincing hero, while his attempts to look mean and rugged in the film’s latter stages are thwarted by bad editing - he has stubble one moment, is clean shaven the next, and seems to be all over the place when sporting his collection of scars.

As for LL Cool J and Romijn-Stamos, they are mere window-dressing - the former to provide some attitude and fill in the Michael Beck role (both die), the latter to look good and get her kit off (she does).

But aside from a nifty chase through the hills of San Francisco early on and the obligatory Romijn-Stamos breast shot, this has absolutely nothing to recommend it. Rollerball takes bad film-making to new extremes.