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Rollerball

Year: 2002
Director: John McTiernan
Producer: John McTiernan
Cast: Chris Klein, Jean Reno, LL Cool J, Rebecca Romijn-Stamos, Naveen Andrews
This is one review where you're going to think I'm talking about the wrong movie. This is one of those notoriously reviled films everyone hates. It was famously shown to Aintitcoolnews.com webmaster Harry Knowles and then yanked for panicked rewrites after he bagged it.

I can never work out why McTiernan doesn't have more kudos in Hollywood. Responsible for the birth of the modern action film (Die Hard - also the original in the exhaustive string of terrorist takeover films), he even does a brilliant job working with a lame story (The 13th Warrior). This time, he brings his brilliant direction to a story brilliantly written, and the result is one of the best films of the year.

A violent sport of the near future is hyped to the max among the impoverished but western glamour-starved Central Asian blue collar class by a villainous, ratings-conscious manager (Reno) prepared to go to any length for viewers - even killing players. When star players (Klein and Cool J) realise what's going on they flee, but the awesome power of their overlord shows its full effect and there's no choice but to fight. In this seemingly very Hollywood script, the film has clear and sharply satiric things to say - about the corruption and corporate power behind modern sports and the cultural hegemony of the west.

I didn't have high hopes, expecting nothing more than an ultra-violent, sports/action movie with none of the social comment of the original, but I was more than pleasantly surprised. McTiernan's elaborate vision (montages of news clips in the vein of Verhoeven's Robocop , an entire escape sequence filmed in infared night vision) delivers a level of visual engagement better than any Hollywood system director. He brings a too-good-to-be-true performance out of teen movie mainstay Klein, excellence out of Romijn-Stamos (an ex model, which says something about her expected acting abilities) and the ever-cool LL Cool J. Everything about it was brilliant. Also incredible in that this is one of the most universally hated movies of recent times.

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