Rollerball (2002 film)

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Rollerball 2002.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by John McTiernan
Produced by
Screenplay by
Based on

"Roller Ball Murder"
by William Harrison

1975 screenplay Rollerball
by William Harrison

Music by Éric Serra
Cinematography Steve Mason
Edited by
Distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
(USA & Canada)
Columbia Pictures
Release dates
  • February 8, 2002 (2002-02-08)
Running time
98 minutes[1]
Country United States
Language English
Budget $70 million[2]
Box office $25.9 million[2]

Rollerball is a 2002 remake of the 1975 science-fiction film of the same name. It stars Chris Klein, Jean Reno, LL Cool J, Rebecca Romijn, and Naveen Andrews. It was directed by John McTiernan and has a much greater focus on action, with more muted social and political overtones than the original. Unlike the previous film, it takes place in the present rather than in a future dystopian society.


In 2005, the new sport of Rollerball becomes hugely popular in Central Asia, Russia, China, Mongolia, and Turkey.

Marcus Ridley (LL Cool J) invites NHL hopeful Jonathan Cross (Chris Klein) to join him playing for the Zhambel Horsemen in Kazakhstan. The highly paid Marcus and Jonathan are teamed with low-paid locals, who are often severely injured in the game, which is an extraordinarily violent extension of roller derby involving motorcycles, a metal ball, and many trappings similar to the professional wrestling phenomenon of World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE).

In the beginning, Jonathan, the team's star player and the poster child of promoter Alexi Petrovich (Jean Reno), is enamored by the high-octane sport, the popularity, sports cars and with his female teammate Aurora (Rebecca Romijn). But Jonathan and Ridley eventually discover that the cynical Alexi and his opportunistic assistant, Sanjay (Naveen Andrews), have a vested interest in keeping the game as popular as possible, through planned gory "accidents" and ensuring that Jonathan and Ridley cannot quit the team and remain high-profile stars.

After an accident almost causes Aurora to be killed, Jonathan and Ridley decide that they need to flee the country to save their lives. The two are followed by Alexi and several body guards, who attack the two before they can reach the Russian border, resulting in Ridley's death.

Following the escape attempt, Alexi tries to stage a public execution of Jonathan by removing all the rules from the upcoming Rollerball match. However, Jonathan, with the help of his teammates, start a revolution, causing the fans to see the sport for what it really is, and ultimately to kill Alexi.


The film features cameo appearances by Pink, Slipknot, Carroll Shelby, Paul Heyman, and Shane McMahon.


Although the first draft of the script was considered by many to be very good and even superior to the original film, director John McTiernan didn't like it because it focused more on social commentary, while he thought that the audience would like to see more of the Rollerball scenes. This is why he had the original script to be completely re-written several times and made sure that it focuses more on WWE-like showmanship, including crazy costumes and stunts.

The movie was filmed in about 15 weeks, between July 24 and November 2000. McTiernan's first cut which was over two hours long was test screened in Las Vegas around April or May 2001, and it got a very negative response from test audiences. The release date was then pushed forward from May to 13 July 2001 by MGM in order to test the movie again, hoping that they would find the right audience for it.

Harry Knowles from Ain't it Cool News was invited by McTiernan for a test screening of the film in Long Island sometime after the first test screening, and in his review of McTiernan's original cut, Knowles said that the movie is bad but at least it's a unapologetic hard-R film with lots of nudity and some really brutal violence in Rollerball scenes, but even as a workprint it was obvious how badly the action scenes were edited and the story was bad. "The 'Rollerball' edit I saw was one of the worst films I'd seen in my life. There was jeering in the theater," Knowles said. Knowles was also one of the people who read the original first draft of the script (one that McTiernan rejected) and he said that it was an amazing script which solved all the problems of original film.

Following the negative test screenings, MGM ordered massive re-shoots and re-edits to be done on the film in the summer of 2001. Shortly after the test screenings, MGM appointed a new head of marketing and distribution, Robert Levin, who convinced McTiernan to let go of the summer release date. This would give the studio more time to devise a better marketing strategy and allow McTiernan to do re-shoots and to re-edit the film for a PG-13 rating, in an attempt by the studio to get a wider audience to see the film. The release date was then pushed again from August all the way to February of 2002, due to all the post production work causing delays. McTiernan shot two weeks of additional footage in the fall of 2001 to clarify certain scenes, especially the film's ending, and also cut down the violence and all the nudity.[3][4][5]

On the orders by the studio, around 30 minutes were cut out of the original rough cut of the film and the entire ending was re-shot and changed. Some of the cuts were made because MGM thought that movie was "Too Asian".[6][7] In the original ending, Petrovich gets killed by Sanjay and Jonathan and Aurora take the plane ride back to US, during which Jonathan says that he will continue playing the Rollerball game in US, and how he is now part owner of the game.

Some of the scenes that were cut for the PG-13 rating, but were never put back even in later DVD and Blu-ray so called R rated versions of the film, include lots more blood in all the Rollerball scenes and parts like skulls getting smashed, bones getting broken, teeth flying out, a scene where Aurora is topless and walks towards Jonathan in the locker room originally didn't had a shadow over her (this was added in post production to cover her up for the PG-13 rating), their sex scene was also longer, and so was their conversation while they are laying down in a sauna. Some of the other similar edits that were done on more graphic scenes in the film include digitally replacing blood spurts with sweat.

Some of the action scenes were also longer in the original cut and/or edited differently or re-shot, like for example the opening scene in San Francisco which was partially re-shot after the original version of it was considered to be too confusing due to the editing.

The infamous night vision sequence was actually a re-shot version of the scene. After realizing that they shot the original version of the scene to look too dark, filmmakers had to return and re-shot the entire sequence, delaying the movie's release for six months. But due to the budget issues this scene couldn't be finished properly so it was decided to add green visual tint to the scene to make it look like it's night vision, even though it makes no sense for why would this scene would have that look.

The original score by Brian Transeau was also removed because it sounded "Too Arabic" and was replaced with a new score by Éric Serra. Also, some of the other music was changed or removed from the first cut of the film.[8]

This was not the first time that McTiernan was involved in some troubled production. One of his previous films, The 13th Warrior also had problems with bad test screenings of his director's cut, which led to writer Michael Crichton taking over the directing of the re-shoots and re-edits of the film.


Rollerball was heavily panned by critics. Time Out's Trevor Johnson described it as "a checklist shaped by a 15-year-old mallrat: thrashing metal track, skateboards, motorbikes, cracked heads and Rebecca Romijn with her top off", and Chicago Sun-Times reviewer Roger Ebert called it "an incoherent mess, a jumble of footage in search of plot, meaning, rhythm and sense". The film's lead, Chris Klein, was also a subject of criticism and ridicule, being referred to as a bland hero.

Rotten Tomatoes ranked the film 28th in the 100 worst reviewed films of the 2000s, with a rating of 3%.

The film was a box-office flop, earning a worldwide total of $25.9 million compared to a production budget of $70 million.[2] In 2014, the Los Angeles Times listed the film as one of the most expensive box office flops of all time.[9] Rebecca Romijn was nominated for a Golden Raspberry Award as Worst Supporting Actress, where she lost to Madonna for her cameo in Die Another Day.

The creator of Rollerball, science fiction author William Harrison said: "I've never watched the 2002 incarnation of Rollerball, and have no interest in it."


In 2013, director John McTiernan was sent to federal prison for making a false statement to an FBI investigator in February 2006 about his hiring the private investigator Anthony Pellicano to illegally wiretap Charles Roven, the producer of the film, around August 2000.[10][11] McTiernan (who was released in 2014) had been in a disagreement with Roven about what type of film Rollerball should be, and had hired Pellicano to investigate Roven's intentions and actions.[12]


The score was released, but the soundtrack was not.

  1. "Boom" – P.O.D.
  2. "Told You So" – Drowning Pool
  3. "Ride" – Beautiful Creatures
  4. "Millionaire" – Rappagariya
  5. "I Am Hated" – Slipknot
  6. "Body Go" – Hardknox
  7. "Feel So Numb" – Rob Zombie
  8. "Keep Away" – Godsmack
  9. "Insane in the Brain" – Sen Dog
  10. "Flashpoint" – Fear Factory
  11. "When I Come Around" – Green Day
  12. "Crawling in the Dark" – Hoobastank
  13. "Time to Play" – Pillar
  14. "Never Gonna Stop (The Red Red Kroovy)" – Rob Zombie


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