Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Have a Ball

I guess we rented Rollerball (1975) because we had watched the remake Death Race, which got me wanting to see the original and also that other 1970s science-fiction bloodsport movie. Made sense at the time, especially because the original Death Race 2000 (1975 also) isn't on Netflix yet.

The movie stars James Caan as rollerball star Jonathan E. Rollerball is kind of like roller derby on a banked track, with cannonballs and motorcycles. It is a full-contact sport, played in studded leather. Minor penalties are called for extreme violence.

This game is played in a future world dominated by executives, who control everything. Athletes like Jonathan and his buddy Moonpie (John Beck in the Burt Reynolds role) have certain privileges, like medical treatment, but no real autonomy. For example, an executive took Jonathan's wife. Oh sure, they gave him plenty of other women, so he can't complain, but still.

It's funny how all of the women in this movie look the same - Kind of Fade Unaway. This may have been to emphasize that they were considered interchangeable, or it might have just been the 70s.

As well as women and privileges, the athletes and the executives take a lot of pills, which lets the filmmakers give the non-action scenes a woozy, druggy feeling, as well as explain the passivity of the players.

But really, the movie comes down to the action scenes. Rollerball, the sport, doesn't disappoint. The movie shows 3 games, each more desperate than the last. There's a legend that the extras who played the audience at these games were so excited that they tried to form real-life rollerball leagues. I can easily understand why.

On the other hand, nobody cares about the 2002 remake of Rollerball. Including me.

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