by Tammy Wanchena
The air is thick with anticipation. Masses of fans sit on the edge of their seats. Suits find their box seats and cue the Corporate Anthem. Motorcycle engines rev. Roller skaters and bikers enter the stadium floor. The first ball is released. Let the games begin!
I’m talking about Rollerball, a futuristic blood sport where men on roller skates are macho and Corporate CEOs map out their lives on and off the court. In 1975, director Norman Jewison saw a future not dissimilar to the seventies. Very underwhelming by today’s standards where Dennis Hopper shops at The Gap and CD players and fuel injection are becoming standard on bikes. Compared to A Clockwork Orange made in 1971 and Sleeper from 1973, Jewison adds very little insight into the foreboding future he attempts to portray and instead combines concepts of many other films to arrive at this entertaining, yet far-from-groundbreaking film. Don’t get me wrong, I actually liked Rollerball. I get paid to be cynical.
After ten years as a record breaking Rollerballer at the height of his career, Jonathan E. is asked to retire as coach of the Houston team. No explanations are given and no concessions are made. Jonathan looks for answers but in a Big Brother society, answers aren’t easy to come by. Not only is his job being threatened, but his life as well and as far as he knows he hasn’t done a damn thing wrong! Jonathan’s not willing to hang up his skates and plays through to the finals where all rules of conduct are taken away from the game and only one man will remain standing in the end.
The acting in this film is incredible! James Caan nails his role as Jonathan E. and John Houseman, one of my favorite actors, is perfectly cast as head of Houston Corporate. Andre Previn selected the music for the film and Bach’s Toccata & Fugue and Tchaikovsky add an eerie feel throughout. I honestly expected this movie to suck. I was happily disappointed.