The famed director of such pulsing action movies as “Die Hard” and “Predator” has utterly failed to update the 1975 sci-fi movie that explored a futuristic sterile society's fascination with a brutally violent blood sport. Gone are the eerie white chambers, visceral action sequences and James Caan's brooding portrait of an athlete loner. Even the future world of the original film is jettisoned, this version substituting a chaotic Kazakistan as the only contemporary locale that would sanction the sport.
McTiernan seems to think, mistakenly, that the brutal action in the Norman Jewison movie was what propelled it. It wasn't. The action was an outgrowth of the central character's dissatisfaction with the anesthetized society that paid to see him play the game. In the remake, Chris Klein plays Jonathan Cross, the movie's tortured hero. Klein has always been a fairly expressionless actor suited for supporting roles, so to cast him in this lead was a radical mistake. The movie is filled with stilted performances, including those of rapper LL Cool J as another player, Jean Reno as the team's crooked owner and Rebecca Romijn-Stamos as Jonathan's girlfriend. Drifting in and out of a bad Russian accent, Romijn-Stamos gives one of the worst performances perpetrated on the bigscreen in quite some time.
The movie has had its share of controversy: MGM delayed its release from last summer after bad word of mouth from an early screening, and a more than two-hour cut of the movie was slashed, with the violent action and nudity excised. There isn't much left. Starring Chris Klein, Jean Reno, LL Cool J and Rebecca Romijn-Stamos. Directed by John McTiernan. Written by Larry Ferguson and John Pogue. Produced by John McTiernan, Charles Roven and Beau St. Clair. An MGM release. Action. Rated PG-13 for violence, extreme sports action, sensuality, language and some drug references. Running time: 96 min