Remakes nearly always fall into one of two categories: bad remakes of classic movies, and bad remakes of crappy movies. John McTiernan’s Rollerball (2002, PG-13) is both: it’s a bad remake of a classic crappy movie.
In the original Rollerball (1975, R), James Caan is a star player of the eponymous roller-derby/demolition-derby sport. It’s not Brazil, but the dystopian vision of the film is a convincing one that still stands up reasonably well today. James Caan, a talented character actor who combines the meanness of James Coburn with James Garner’s easygoing charm, was perfectly cast as Jonathan E., and the endlessly imitated John Houseman does a stunning job as the vile corporate mouthpiece. It’s a bit talky by today’s standards, but the original Rollerball is still a fine evening’s entertainment.
In contrast, McTiernan’s Rollerball is far less talky, but what dialogue there is makes little sense. Creative subtitling would probably improve it, although that might rob it of some of its unintentional humor. The scenes of the Rollerball game itself are, incredibly, even more frenetic than those in the original, which means that the action is impossible to follow rather than merely difficult. Jonathan Cross, played with mayonnaisian blandness by the inexplicably popular Chris Klein, makes no impression at all. Even L.L. Cool J. (Deep Blue Sea), Rebecca Romijn-Stamos (X-Men), and Jean Reno (The Professional) can’t combine their powers to overcome the monumentally stupid script and choppy editing.
Don’t pay to see Rollerball in the theatre: wait for it to come to video, and then rent something else.