Rollerball


Rollerball (2002)

Relationship strain on set of Rollerball due to intense roles

Rollerball poster art
Sports and the cinema have long enjoyed a successful marriage. There are classics from the baseball diamond, such as Bull Durham and Field of Dreams. There have been unforgettable boxing pictures – Raging Bull and Rocky come to mind. Even such ridiculous pseudo-sports such as professional wrestling, women’s basketball and women’s soccer have been immortalized on the silver screen.

Well, you can forget about all of those films. In fact, I want you to gather up your copies of Remember The Titans, Million Dollar Baby and Hoosiers. Gather up all of your sports movies. Now put them in a large bucket. Okay, now pour some gasoline in it, and drop in a lit match. That’s right, light the whole damn thing on fire!

You see there is no need for any of these other sports flicks anymore. Because on February 8, 2002, the perfect sports film – nay – the perfect film was released. This week, join me, the Cinema Connoisseur in celebrating the classic Rollerball.

Wait, before we proceed, I have to make sure you didn’t put your copy of Air Bud: Golden Receiver in that pile of movies to be burned. Sure, it technically is a sports movie – but it’s so much more than that.

Now, back to Rollerball. An absolute dream cast has been assembled to tell this story. Chris Klein (American Pie), Rebecca Romijn (X-Men), and LL Cool J (Any Given Sunday) all deliver Oscar caliber performances.

Klein portrays Jonathan Cross, a former hockey player who has switched over to the much more violent sport of rollerball in the fictional land of Asia. He is the biggest star in the league, and living the sweet life – that is until he discovers a plot by the higher ups in the league. Jean Reno (Ronin, The Professional) and Naveen Andrews (Sayid from “Lost”) portray the unscrupulous operators of the league who are purposely planning injuries, and even death, in an attempt to spike their television ratings.

The film serves as an excellent commentary on the practices of television executives, who often utilize violence and death for ratings. While the scenario in Rollerball may be a bit on the extreme side, there have certainly been plenty of real world examples – the “Who Shot J.R.” episode of “Dallas; the endless string of deaths on shows such as “CSI” and “Law and Order”; and who can ever forget the episode of “ALF” where everybody’s favourite Melmacian died as a result of testicular cancer.

In his role as Jonathan, Klein once again shows he is one of our finest actors working today. He is a cross between Keanu Reeves and…well, Keanu Reeves. If Keanu could have sex with himself (which I am sure has been suggested to him on more than one occasion), the resulting offspring would be none other than Chris Klein.

Unfortunately for Klein, his personal life took a toll during the making of the film. Klein was said to have became so engrossed in his role as Jonathan Cross that he became a different person during filming and was never quite the same afterwards. This caused a rift between him and his long time girlfriend Katie Holmes, who was driven into the clutches of Tom Cruise and Scientology.

Rebecca Romijn also suffered from what has been dubbed “The Rollerball Curse.” Her storybook romance with John Stamos was irreparably damaged during the making of this film. It just goes to show you that making a film like Rollerball is a powerful experience. It’s not just something actors do for six-to-eight weeks, collect a paycheck and then go on the “Arsenio Hall Show” to promote. Wait, that show is still on, isn’t it?

So if you ever here anyone spreading that nasty rumour that the reason for the Stamos split was because Romijn participated in a three-way with Stamos’ “Full House” co-stars Bob Saget and Dave Coulier, while middle daughter Jodie “Stephanie” Sweetin filmed the whole thing, then sold the internet distribution rights so she could buy Crystal Meth – well, you can tell them that they are wrong, and that it was because of “The Rollerball Curse”.

If you enjoy movies that may make you think, then I strongly suggest checking out Rollerball. Just a world of caution – approximately an hour into the film, the picture will turn dark green and fuzzy. Do not adjust your television set. This portion of the film is shot using a night vision effect. It may be a little hard to tell what is going on for the fifteen-minute duration of the scene. Some have speculated that too much of the budget was spent on explosions, futuristic looking sets, and “bitches and hos” for L.L . Cool J., so they had to cut back on some frills, such as lighting. I prefer to believe it was done for artistic purposes.

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