Awfully Good: Rollerball

Last Updated on August 5, 2021

As THE HUNGER GAMES saga wraps up, we take a look at another deadly leisure-time activity from the future…


Rollerball (2002)


Director: John McTiernan
Stars: Chris Klein, LL Cool J, Rebecca Romijn-Stamos


A star athlete discovers wrongdoing and violent unethical behavior occurring behind-the-scenes in his sport. (No, this is not a documentary about the NFL.)

ROLLERBALL is truly one of the worst movies ever made, a film that is disastrous on every front—as a pointless remake, as a thrilling action movie, as socio-political commentary, and as a piece of entertainment that won't drive people to self-harm. 

Fans may not have been happy about Ben Affleck as Batman, but they're REALLY going to be pissed when they see his final costume.

It's so bad it almost feels like parody. How could this not have been done on purpose? Especially coming from John McTiernan, whose past bowel movements were surely better productions than ROLLERBALL. You can sort of see what would draw the DIE HARD director to this project, as unnecessary as a remake of the 1975 James Caan vehicle obviously is. There was potential in the early 2000s for a smart satire on reality television, the cult of sports, corporate globalization, and society's penchant for violence. Unfortunately, this final product manages to be so cliché-ridden, predictable and boring that it feels even less relevant and interesting than the decades-old original. All we're left with is a brainless extreme sports debacle scored to P.O.D. and Slipknot. 

Pink is in this movie, playing the lead singer of White Zombie. Don't ever watch this movie.

Despite being released in 2002, the film is set in a futuristic 2005. Did the filmmakers really think this would be the world in less than three years? Even the 1975 version had the hindsight to set their movie in 2018. Anyways, apparently by the time this movie hit home video, large parts of Asia and Europe have collapsed in to economic ruin and corporate-run wastelands where the only entertainment for the poverty-stricken masses is gambling on the game of Rollerball. The film does a rather terrible job of explaining how the title sport itself actually works. It's like Quidditch with rollerblades, random motorcycles and hockey-style fights—and it's much less cooler than it sounds. 


The sport's biggest star is Jonathan "JON-A-TON" Cross, played by Chris Klein. Despite achieving Awfully Good Hall of Fame status as the glorious John Nash in STREET FIGHTER: LEGEND OF CHUN LI, Klein is eight different kinds of awful in ROLLERBALL. He is painfully unconvincing in every aspect of this movie—from being a badass action/sports star to delivering lines like a normal human being. Chemistry-wise, he can't even pull off being friends with the charismatic LL Cool J or a plausible romantic interest for a constantly-naked Rebecca Romijn-Stamos (who also suffers from a dreadful Russian accent throughout the movie). Even Jean Reno's evil, murderous villain seems like a character you'd rather spend time with. The problem is that Cross is written to be unbelievably naïve and dumb as the protagonist, qualities that Klein only exacerbates. Imagine trying to root for a hero that has to have everything constantly explained to him and even then still doesn't figure out what's going on. The movie is almost halfway through and Cross still seems surprised to discover that there's something shady going on with this violent underground deathsport held in random Eastern bloc countries. 

All the actors were thrilled at the decision to add Mystique's blue scales digitally in post-production.

Even with McTiernan behind the helm, ROLLERBALL still manages to be a letdown in the action department. The sport itself is never that thrilling no matter how manic the editing is, and there's not much else to be had in the excitement department, aside from a random street luging opening sequence. Actually, I lied… there is one part of ROLLERBALL that stands out. There's a sequence at the end of the second act where Chris Klein and LL Cool J are trying to escape their evil sporting overlords via motorcycle through the desert—and the whole thing is shot in night-vision. An entire section of the movie, 10 out of its 90 minutes, is presented to the audience in green for no explained or discernible reason. It's not from a single angle or character POV. (In fact, I didn't see anybody even using night-vision goggles at any point.) It's as if the director ran out of time or money to actually light the scenes. Not only does it make zero sense from a visual perspective, it also renders this major chase between a plane and a motorcycle completely incomprehensible and boring. And if that wasn't bad enough, I swear to god the sound designer added in cartoon "BOING!" sound effects multiple times. Please watch it in the Best Parts below to confirm I'm not crazy.

"Would you f*ck me? I'd f*ck me."

I know at JoBlo we joke about sending directors to Movie Jail, but ROLLERBALL was so bad it actually led to real jail time for John McTiernan. Apparently, McTiernan was fighting so much with producer Charles Roven about the production of the film, he hired a private investigator to spy on him and see what he was doing off-set. Unfortunately, the P.I. illegally wiretapped Roven's phone and McTiernan lied about it in court, leading to a year in federal prison. He hasn't directed movie since 2003. 

Thanks a lot, ROLLERBALL.

Enjoy Chris Klein's line delivery and other lowlights.

Street luging, night vision action, Chris Klein's "acting" and even a little Rollerballing. NOTE: I did not add any sound effects to this video.

Rebecca Romijn shows off her Stamos' in the shadows.

Still more interesting than golf! Buy this movie here!

Take a shot or drink every time:

  • Chris Klein's character is really stupid 
  • Someone scores a goal 
  • The Global Instant Rating goes up
  • A nu-metal song plays
  • There's nudity

Double shot if:

  • Jean Reno has an anger outburst


Thanks to Demetri and Mark for suggesting this week's movie!


Seen a movie that should be featured on this column? Shoot Jason an email or follow him on Twitter and give him an excuse to drink.


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