Rollerball (1975)

Rating: B

Dir: Norman Jewison
Star: James Caan, John Houseman, Maud Adams, John Beck

Jewison steadfastly claimed his movie wasn’t exploiting violence, it was about the exploitation of violence – given the lengthy depictions of it here, it’s hard to agree, though I’ve never had a problem with the exploitation of violence anyway. Despite a dated view of the corporate-run future, out of the same box as Logan’s Run, the relevance of the subject matter remains: Caan plays Jonathan, star of the titular sport which is, in fact, propaganda to prove the futility of individual effort. His continued success poses a threat to the establishment, and he is asked to retire: when he refuses, the gloves come off – to be replaced with spiked, metallic ones.

At the risk of disagreeing with the director, what I take from the film is more to do with the indomitable spirit of the individual. Especially a stubborn and cantankerous individual like Jonathan, even when faced with a monolithic organisation which has taken everything, including his wife. Caan delivers the goods here, making his character a hero both inside and outside of the movie, and special praise to Houseman for his slimy veteran executive. If the upcoming remake is still remembered with fondness, twenty-five years down the line, I’ll be impressed.