Rollerball is the organized sport of death. It is the main outlet for aggression in a world that has organized itself out of the violence business. Everyone knows their place: executive class, worker class, or the brilliantly burning, but short-lived, hero class of athletes.
In "Rollerball," the corporation always knows best. Those with doubts are amply supplied with little pills that get exchanged like after-dinner mints. What do the pills do? Why, they make sure your dreams are good ones...
In this world, corporations have superseded nations. No more out-moded countries, just mega-corps who see to all the necessities of life. Oh sure, there was some violent jockeying for position back during the Corporate Wars. But now things are all straightened out -- organized, predictable, and above all, calm.
Everything that is, except Rollerball, a cross between a gladitorial coliseum and a motorized roller/demolition derby. Half of each team rides on motorcycles to catapult the skating half of the team around the track. Skaters fight for possession of a 50-pound metal ball. Fists are clad in black leather, with sharpened gouging protrusions. The fighting frequently ends in death. Game strategies often look like they evolved in the urban conflict that must have erupted prior to the "Corporate Wars."
The film centers on a Rollerball hero named Jonathan E. (played by James Caan). He is a unique player, having survived 10 years in the arena. The corporation, via his boss, Mr. Bartholamule (John Houseman), wants Jonathan to retire. He refuses, not wanting to abandon his team at a particularly dangerous juncture. The tidy rules, you see, are gradually disappearing from the game. Blood lust in on the rise. The season is closing in on a championship finale which is to be played TO THE DEATH.
So why does Jonathan still want to play? He wants to invalidate the main premise of The Game, which is that individual effort is obsolete, meaningless. He is willing to risk his life to hold on to his right to say NO!
Directed by Norman Jewison
Here is the TEXT POPUP for Rollerball:
[After it's become clear that Jonathan E. will not retire, Mr. Bartholamule consults with his peers, other heads of the major corporations:]
In my opinion we are confronted here with something of a "situation." Otherwise, I would not have presumed to take up your time. Once again it concerns the case of Jonathan E. We know we don't want anything extraordinary to happen to Jonathan; we've already agreed on that. No accidents, nothing unnatural. The game's created to demonstrate the futility of individual effort. Let the game do its work. The Energy Corporation has done all it can, but if a champion defeats the meaning, for which the game was designed, then he must lose. I hope you agree with my reasoning...