I just finished watching this one. I had it on my mental list for quite some time and finally had a chance to fully watch this one. Whenever i saw pictures from that film i thought to myself “well, I don’t know if that’s something for my taste”. Now I think “why the hell didn’t you watch this one earlier!?”. This movie belongs into the Sci-Fi classic league, no doubt. It’s one of these movies that were ahead of its time if you ask me. Granted… it’s not the most beautifully shot movie. It got no amazing VFX. The acting is… good but not great. Except for James Caan who really nails his character performance very good.
Storywise we’re in the future. The planet is run by several Corporations. These Corps have control about everything. And by everything I literally mean everything. They practically run your life for you by telling you what you’re allowed to do and what not. Sounds like our society? Yes, kinda. Now our hero is that athlete who plays for the city of Houston in that Rollerball league. Rollerball is a fairly brutal game where injuries are not a rare thing. Players of the game can even die on the playground. A league that spans the whole world. James Caan’s character is pretty much the super hero of that league. A Michael Jordan kind of athlete. He dominates the playground. In fact… he’s so good in his game and gained such a high popularity that the heads of the Corps start to think that he might become a threat to them. So the ‘higher ups’ decide to get rid of him. First they approach him the nice way. But our hero refuses to retire. But the Corps don’t stop approaching him. Soon enough our hero understands that something is going on. He cannot point his finger on it, but he’s willing to find out why the Corps are so desperate to get him out of the way. Since our hero isn’t willing to quit playing, the rules of the game become harder and in the end even deadly. Just because of him refusing retiring. They really want to get rid of him. No matter what. While we are following our hero on his way to understand the what’s and why’s he always finds dead ends. But he already decided that his end will only happen under his own personal conditions.
The world shown in this movie is really sad to me. The game (Rollerball) is nothing else than food for the mind and tranquilizer for the masses. To keep their minds and thoughts occupied. Don’t, under no circumstances, let it happen that the people start to think on their own. Again similarities to our society? Just look into today’s tv landscape or even cinema. (I could start a massive rant about media stupidity here and it’s hard to hold it back… but I will, for now. =D) I often enough have the impression that a lot of stuff that’s told to us in news or stupid productions like “worlds next top, probably underaged and commercially abused, model” are just there to keep our minds busy or to direct our thoughts into perspectives where they can’t see what’s really going on in the world at that time. (Oh on the verge of a rant here, careful!) So yes, the movie was ahead of its time. No doubt.
James Caan pretty much carries the movie alone. He plays his character very believable and I very soon started to root for him. Caan really plays his role as if he’s a football player. And Caan has experience in that field since he was a football player when he was younger. You get the impression that the character isn’t necessarily the smartest egg in the world… but isn’t a dumb one either. He comes to the right conclusions that soon lead him to believe that something is wrong. That the Corps are messing with his life.
The movie is shot on some nice locations. I even recognized that one scene was in front of the BMW building in Munich. They also seemed to have shot a few scenes in the Olympic park there. Which I though were excellent choices for that movie. The camera work in general wasn’t bad and in the action game scenes it all looked pretty much uptodate. Only thing I missed a little bit was the speed of the game. otherwise it got enough fast cuts and captured the action pretty good. Also, when the movie was released in 1975 there was also a buzz about how brutal and violent the game scenes were. And yes. I agree. I can see why it was an argument at the time. Compared to the violence you see in todays average action movie productions it’s really nothing worth to mention but… Rollerball needed these violent scenes to get its point accross. And it was a good choice of the creators staying on that path. Otherwise the movie would have lost its message and depth.
Ultimately I liked the way the movie portrayed its world and Jame Caan’s performance. Given the fact that the movie was made 1975 it’s remarkable how close we have come to the soviety in the movie. Maybe my interpretation is a little too heavy but hell… it’s just the truth. So many of these old Sci-Fi classics start to come together nowadays. Lots of similarities. It’s a thought provoking movie and that’s what Sci-Fi always should be.
7.5/10 from me.