Rollerball (1975)
Dir: Norman Jewison
Star: James Caan, John Houseman, John Beck, Maud Adams
Cert / Year: 15 - R / 1975
Format: DVD R2

In the future the worlds population lives in a corporate controlled society. There is no hunger, no decease, and no personal freedom of thought. The only means of escapism is the ultra violent sport Rollerball. Playing for the Energy Corporation of Houston Jonathan E (James Caan) is the greatest Rollerball player that ever lived. Unfortunately he has become bigger than the game itself, a game which is designed not to produce heroes. This success of an individual threatens the very existence of corporate society. So now the corporations will go to any length to ensure that Jonathon E's next game is his last.

This truly is a classic sci-fi film, and definitely the best future sport movie ever made. It mixes an excellent story with a well thought out and fully believable sport, and then tops it off with some great acting and top quality action direction. The end result is brutal and intelligent at the same time.

The intelligence comes from the script as it investigates the concept of a corporate society, and the strength of the individual to adapt to overcome any form of restraint. It's not the hero Jonathon E's fault he is the best at the game, it's natural selection. So we can empathise with the fact that he is unable to understand why he is being made to leave the game he loves, and that forms the basis of his whole life. Rarely has the big brother mentality been so well realised, the corporations are genuinely faceless all-powerful entities, and the sense of total control added to lack of personal freedom is scary.

The brutality comes from corporate tool that is the sport of Rollerball. Full credit must be given for creating a completely new sport and for ensuring it has a full set of working rules. This isn't just some rip off of football or hockey this is an original game. The armour clad players, the fact that the players are on skates, this mixed with motorbikes on the same track, and the giant cannon delivering the steel ball add to up a terrifyingly brutal and genuinely dangerous game. Best of all is the way in which this new sport is seamlessly explained to the viewer via the in game commentary. After this the rules are easy to pick up, ensuring that before long we become as knowledgeable as any Rollerball fan.

The Rollerball arena is huge but well designed, allowing for very interesting use of wide shots of the whole arena (just check out the beginning of the film as the officals prepare for the game). Where things really kick off is with Norman Jewison's excellent direction during the games. Great use is made of quick cuts and close ups to really hammer the action home. In-dispersing the action shots with shots of injured or dead players is another effective tool that is used to further demonstrate the brutality of the game. The set design, costumes, and direction fantastically combine to deliver coverage of sports action that has rarely been surpassed.

Rollerball is a classic. It is the definitive future sport film. It has brutally exciting action, superb story, and top direction. Added to this is a career best performance from James Caan and fine support from John Houseman (Corporate manager Bartholomew) and John Beck (Moonpie). On the downside since 1975 some of the fashions, music, and building design (real building were used) has dated alarmingly and now looks rather less than futuristic. Also the story is a little downbeat, with intentional atmosphere of oppression permeating the proceedings. But don't let this put you off this film is worth it for the Rollerball sport alone, let alone the fantastic ending (a feature lacking in many modern movies). This is a truly memorable film and one that deserves watching again.

Rating: 5 out of 5

Picture 1.85:1 Dark picture lacking in detail but adds grain
Audio Dolby Digital 5.1 Sound is pretty good
Commentary track from Norman Jewison
Production Notes
Verdict There is now a collectors edition which may be better than this average release.

Rating: 2 out of 5

Reviewed by Glitz Back Top Home