September 3rd: Criminally Bad

Rollerball poster

184. Rollerball (John McTiernan, 2002)

I’ve mentioned it before, notably with my review of Supernova, but I’ve got a bizarre fascination with films that are failures. I love a failed movie, be it from a flawed concept or a torturous development, there is a kind of rubbernecking glee that occurs when you watch a botched job. Rollerball had a development process that appeared to last several years before it eventually slid into American cinemas in the release schedule no-mans land of February, back in 2002. What’s left from the endless re-shoots and edits is a messy attempt to update Norman Jewison’s iconic sci-fi satire from 1975. Where Jewison’s film suffers is in the pacing, it would appear that McTiernan was desperate to speed up the film a bit. As an exchange the film is completely stripped of anything but the most perfunctory social commentary, the most memorable and successful aspect of the original film is completely erased. The result is a shopping list of attractions for an ADHD teenage boy; nu-metal, tits, fast cars, extreme sports and violence. There’s really nothing to cling to here though, the sets are plasticky warehouse affairs, the script feels like a collage of advertising soundbites, it’s edited like MTV on fast forward, Chris Klein is comically bad at acting, Rebecca Romijn doesn’t want to be there and Jean Reno is auditioning for a panto villain role. Worst of all the game of Rollerball itself doesn’t make any sense, there’s some kind of ludicrous figure of 8 playing area where two teams race around throwing a steel ball at a dish. I can’t explain it any better than that because the film doesn’t even try.

But what of the drama behind the making of, well the studio is a lot better at signing people up to non-disclosure agreements these days so I’ve been unable to find out what was really going on but there are some juicy bits of info on the internet. Apparently Jewison hated the remake from conception, stating that he thought they were embracing the violence he sought to condemn in his original. But more interestingly John McTiernan became involved in the long running Anthony Pellicano wiretapping/racketeering/conspiracy/identity theft case. Although a minor connection, McTiernan was found guilty of making false statements to federal agents and perjury. The latest news is available HERE but it appeared to be centred on events that occurred when McTiernan hired Pellicano to snoop on Rollerball producer Charles Roven during production. It looks like the director of some of the finest action films ever (Die Hard & Predator) might be spending a bit of time in the slammer.