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October 14, 2008
Rollerball Blu-Ray Movie Review
Cinema Release Blu-Ray Release Distributor Director
7/3/200227/10/2008Sony PicturesJohn McTiernan
Video Codec Sound Format OFLC Rating Star(s)
AVC MPEG-4Dolby TrueHD 5.1MChris Klein

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About to score in the Rollerball arena.

The year was 1975 and James Caan had in the previous year seen the release of The Godfather Part II, the follow up to one of the greatest movies of all time. Now though he was releasing a very different movie, one about an ultra-violent futuristic sport. The movie was received quite well, and has since become quite a cult favourite. As with everything Hollywood it seems that a remake was required and 27 years later, in 2002, that's what we got, a remake by action director John McTiernan.

Jonathan Cross (Klein) is the newest recruit in the most extreme sport of all time - Rollerball. But Cross' life in the fast lane collides with reality when he learns that the league's owner Alexis Petrovich is orchestrating serious on-court "accidents" to boost ratings. Now, Cross plans to take down the owner and his ruthless sport... before the game puts an end to him!

Director John McTiernan is often brilliant in the direction of his movies. Predator, Die Hard and The Hunt For Red October are all sensational movies worthy of every accolade awarded to them. When it was announced he would be directing a remake of the classic 1975 movie Rollerball everyone was hopeful of something special and the movie studio lavished the production with a budget of around $US70 million and a strong lineup of stars including Chris Klein, LL Cool J, Jean Reno, Rebecca Romijn what could go wrong? Well, how about almost everything.

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Rebecca Romijn and Chris Klein.
No mistake about it Rollerball is a right royal cock up. From the very first scenes where Jonathon is riding a luge down a mountain and through the streets of San Francisco you know there is something wrong. Timing seems off and there is a lack of any tension, excitement or sense danger, but the movie is only downhill from there. From early on the movie it spends far too much of its time in the Rollerball arena, and far little time with character and story development.

Despite the inclusion on many big name actors, there isn't much in the way of acting actually here. Chris Klein looks as interested as a flattened cat on a road with little emotion, and even less in the way of acting. LL Cool J is a little better, but not much. The only actors who seem to add any class is Jean Reno who is a wasted talent here as the sports owner, and Rebecca Romijn who at least gets naked to provide some interest! (Sexist I know, but hey, it was easily the highlight of the movie).

Rollerball's script is lackluster, the acting poor, editing weak and overall coherency pretty much down the drain. Admittedly this is not the worst movie we've ever seen, but it's only a couple of notches above Battlefield Earth and Norbit - and they're shockers.

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Some nice wheels in Rollerball (2002).

Visually Rollerball looks fairly impressive with 1080p encoding in the films original aspect ratio of 2.35:1 using the AVC MPEG-4 codec. Much of the movie takes place in darkish environments which with brilliant colours - such as red or gold - on the Rollerball arena and on the athletes. There is also an interesting night time driving sequence which is shot with night vision goggles (everything appears green). It's an interesting choice especially with that segment running for around 15 minutes and fortunately the Blu-Ray transfer handles this pretty well, although as is the nature of night vision it is very grainy.

Other problems, well the film doesn't really look as flash or sharp as one would expect, there was some inconsistency in the sharpness and grain levels. It's no a disaster, but not among Sony's or the Blu-Ray format's best.

The main audio track on the Rollerball is an English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 which being lossless has a bitrate often well above 2Mbps, which is much improved on the DVD Release which contains a Dolby Digital 5.1 track encoded at 448kbps. There is some use of surround sound channels, as well as the sub-woofer however this is hardly a cause for celebration.

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Rollerball gets frantic, and bloody!
Unfortunately the sound mix on this movie was probably never good to start with, and there are some lines of dialogue a bit hard to understand on occasions. Perhaps even more baffling is the 'loony toons' sound effects when a jeep crashes through a wire fence in the night sequence at 1:02:43 and in case you missed it a few seconds later at 1:02:57. If you weren't laughing at the stupidity of this movie prior to this, then you certainly will be after!

The disc contains three other audio tracks - French Dolby TrueHD 5.1, Spanish Dolby TrueHD 5.1, and Russian Dolby Digital 5.1 at 640kbps. The latter of those tracks simply includes the Russian dialogue dubbed over the English voices which remain quite audible. Subtitles are provided in English, English SDH, French, Spanish as well as 17 other European languages. From samples the English track is accurate to the dialogue in the movie.

There are a couple of extras here, so let's get to them.

Audio Commentary with Chris Klein, Rebecca Romijn and LL Cool J: While LL Cool J is quite over hyped at times, this is still a quite entertaining track with Chris and Rebecca in particular offering some interesting and often entertaining comments. Not the best commentary, but one to listen to while doing some paperwork or cleaning the house (or writing this review!).

Future Sport: The Stunts of Rollerball (20:59): New to Australians, but recycled from the American DVD release of Rollerball, this extra looks at the creation and filming of the Rollerball scenes as well as some of the other sequences such as the luge race down the streets of San Francisco. It's actually a fairly interesting featurette with plenty of on-set production footage and interviews with cast and crew. Shame it's only in Standard Definition.

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The luge sequence is pretty good.
Music Video: "Never Gonna Stop Me" by Rob Zombie (3:20): In Standard Definition with 2 Channel Dolby Digital 192kbps audio this isn't a bad song actually, but it doesn't sound or look the best. Why can't these be presented in HD?!

Trailers (6:29/HD): Trailers for Men In Black, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and the promotional Blu-Ray Disc is High Definition.

Rollerball is a terrible movie no mistake about it. Why Sony Pictures didn't release the original starring James Caan instead of this is quite baffling. Video and audio on this disc are solid, and there are a couple of notable extras, but it's hard to recommend this film to anyone but a die-hard fan.

Review By: Dave Warner


Note: All images in this article are Copyrightę Sony Pictures. They are only indicative of the movie and not sourced from the vastly superior Blu-Ray disc format.