Violent waste of time

Who ever thought that Rollerball was a good idea? I suppose there is sound logic to not wanting to remake a genuine classic, but aren’t there better, more adventurous properties lying around film producers’ vaults than Rollerball?

Who ever thought that Rollerball was a good idea? I suppose there is sound logic to not wanting to remake a genuine classic, but aren’t there better, more adventurous properties lying around film producers’ vaults than Rollerball?

The Norman Jewison original was a meagre hit back in 1975, and hardly presented a very prescient vision of the future, even if it did successfully foreshadow the lingering cultural obsession with reality television and (God help us) WWF wrestling.

Updated in tone and style but unfortunately not in concept, Rollerball takes place in some sort of parallel universe that is both heightened yet oddly familiar, a sort of neo-Russian Cold War flashback revved up with postmodern action and violence.

So far, so intriguing. But just what kind of game is this? Supposedly the most extreme sport ever invented, Rollerball, is an odd amalgam of hockey, rugby, motocross and pro-wrestling, complete with funny costumes and make-up, and plenty of bone crunching stupidity. Predictability, the denizens of this future world eat it up, the ratings shoot through the roof whenever someone gets mangled, and the producers smell a surefire hit.

Rollerball would seem ripe as a biting, satirical critique of our fascination with violence and bloodshed over true sport, but director John McTiernan seems to be shooting blanks. The film’s real failure is the lack of a clear target. I have to admit I groan at films like this that seem to be decrying gratuitous violence for the sake of rating and profits, yet delight in revelling in it for the box office.

McTiernan’s use of frequent jump cuts in an apparently desperate attempt to elevate the action along with the sameness of the milieu quickly grows tiresome. And amid all the spectacle, the actors are all but lost. A poor man’s Keanu Reeves, Chris Klein is a likeable performer but he has no range, and is all wrong for the part. Rebecca Romijn-Stamos is great to look at but is given nothing to do, and even the usually terrific Jean Reno looks embarrassed. Only LL Cool J lightens the proceedings, but even he should have known better.

If you love pointless violence, check out Rollerball and get a barely competent time-waster. All others, you have been warned.

Lush green aerial photography of the Venezuelan jungle stands in stark contrast to the dark and depressing urbanity of American city life where Joe Darrow (Kevin Costner) works as a doctor in the emergency room of Chicago Memorial Hospital in Dragonfly.

His wife, Emily Darrow (Susanna Thompson), was last seen in a rainstorm in Venezuela, where she was on a retreat with the Red Cross offering humanitarian aid. She vanished in a bus accident.

There were no survivors and her body was never found.

That rich, green, exotic land is left behind as Joe is challenged to persevere through sad, rainy days back home. Joe promised Emily that if anything ever happened to her, he would visit her patients in the oncology ward. Strangely, the children seem to know him, and they say they’ve seen Emily in their near-death experiences.

When Joe begins to believe that Emily is trying to contact him from the other side, his co-workers and his neighbour (a staunch Kathy Bates with a sterling buzz cut) warn him that grief can be a heavy burden to bear. Featuring a handful of frightful moments, an unexpected action sequence, and many emotional dialogues, Dragonfly is a pensive film about coping with death and questioning the possibility of the afterlife.

Some of the best scenes involve the hilarious and bizarre Linda Hunt, who plays Sister Madeline, an intense little nun with a bad rep who is plagued by tabloid journalists.

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