Rollerball is a remake of the 1975 Norman Jewison thriller that no one I know was clamoring to see a remake of. The original is best remembered for its future-shock vision of extreme sports, but it’s also one of the last of that godawful wave of ’70s sci-fi movies (”Zardoz,” ”Soylent Green”) that got bogged down in a cautionary funk about the terrible fascist fate for which America was headed. I wish I could say that the action scenes in John McTiernan’s ”Rollerball” are exciting, but the decadent blood sport, a rowdy, smash-’em-up cross between Roller Derby and ice hockey, looks, if anything, far less brutal and nihilistic in the age of the WWF and the Vegas-gone-Madison Avenue Super Bowl than it did back in the ’70s.
Chris Klein, as the rollerball champ who uncovers a secret plan to up the sport’s violence for ratings, seems to be doing an impersonation of Keanu Reeves at his most out-of-it. For some reason, the film is set in Central Asia, where Jean Reno, as the sleazy Russian inventor of rollerball, broadcasts the contests on what looks like the local version of al Jazeera. ”Rollerball” was trash even back in 1975, but in some small way it was ahead of its time. The new version just makes you feel like you’ve been watching a lame late-night rerun while stuck in a thunderdome.