Futuresport (1998) poster

Futuresport (1998)


USA. 1998.


Director – Ernest Dickerson, Screenplay – Robert Hewitt Wolfe, Story – Steve DeJarnatt & Robert Hewitt Wolfe, Producer – David Roessell, Photography – Jonathan Freeman, Music – Stewart Copeland, Visual Effects – Rainmaker Digital Pictures (Supervisor – Barry Watkins), Production Design – Douglas Higgins. Production Company – NewStar Media, Inc/Amen Ra Films.


Dean Cain (Tremaine ‘Tre’ Ramzey), Vanessa L. Williams (Alex Torres), Wesley Snipes (Obike Fixx), Bill Smitrovich (Coach Douglas), J.R. Bourne (Eric Sythe), Adrian Hughes (Blake Becker), Tara Frederick (Anarchy), Brian Jensen (Thomas ‘Mayhem’ Mayhew), Rachel Shane (Jet Yuen), Mikela J. Mikael (Lorelei), Ken Kirzinger (Hatchet Jack Jamiston), Matthew Walker (Neville Hodgkins)


It is the year 2025. Futuresport, a game of football involving hoverboards, has become one of the most popular sports in the world after its discovery in the Down Zone ghettos. Tremaine ‘Tre’ Ramzey is one of the top players. The terrorist group The Hawaiian Liberation Organization stage an attack just before the world Futuresport championships in New Orleans but Ramzey and his team-mates defeat them. Ramzey’s cocky style of playing then suffers an embarrassing defeat when they lose the game. Ramzey renews his relationship with his ex, tv reporter Alex Torres, and they become wound in to investigating the HLO. As the war between the US and Hawaii intensifies, Ramzey steps up to offer a solution – a game of Futuresport between the two sides, played as it was in the Down Zones that they grew up in, where the winner of the game claims the disputed territory.

Futuresport was a film that was released direct to cable. Director Ernest Dickerson had started as Spike Lee’s cinematographer and made his directorial debut with Juice (1992) before going on to make several genre films with the human hunting film Surviving the Game (1994), Tales from the Crypt Presents Demon Knight (1995) and the Blaxploitation horror homage Bones (2001), before disappearing into tv work. Among the interesting names present, the film was written by Steve De Jarnatt who had made a couple of culty films with Cherry 2000 (1987) and Miracle Mile (1990), and Robert Hewitt Wolfe who was then best known as a producer and writer on tv’s Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (1993-9) who subsequently went on to create the tv series Andromeda (2000-5) and The Dresden Files (2007-8) and co-write Riverworld (2010).

Futuresport is disappointingly generic in every respect. There seems little effort being made by Ernest Dickerson, the writers or anybody involved. The central concept of what Futuresport is falls apart the moment you see it depicted on the screen – an ultra-violent futuristic sport a la Rollerball (1975) but with players aboard hoverboards a la Back to the Future Part II (1989) – how more lame can an idea for a futuristic sport get than that? There is also the bizarre notion that heated political events between countries on the brink of war could be decided on the outcome of a sports game – I mean, I could just see the Ukraine War being settled over a game of soccer, or else the NBA going in to settle things with ISIS insurgents over a game of basketball.

Futuresport promptly falls into the clichés of the Sports film – the hotshot player who must learn humble-pie; the high-stakes all-or-nothing game where the hero must decide whether to take a fall to save the life of his loved ones; the determination of the unscrupulous opposing side to win at all costs. The backgrounds are routine Cyberpunk futures produced with cut-price economy and generic imagery – ads everywhere and airships cruising through the sky – that signal loudly that the designers have looked no further than borrowing from Blade Runner (1982).

Dean Cain as Tremaine Ramzey in Futuresport (1998)
Dean Cain as champion Futuresport player Tremaine Ramzey

Ernest Dickerson gives the film little in the way of an inspired handling – he gives all impression of being a hired gun on someone else’s project. The attack by the terrorist cell that Dean Cain breaks up in the opening scenes comes with an entire lack of dramatic excitement due to everything being shot in tight closeups seemingly in order to avoid the need for any effects shots.

The game scenes should have perked things up but are not terribly exciting – due to a combination of Ernest Dickerson’s seeming indifference, a low budget/rushed shooting schedule, not very convincing visual effects for the hoverboards necessitating that the flying scenes and most of the action in the arena to be kept to medium shots and closeups. There is certainly nothing of the visceral kick that Rollerball had to its game.

Dean Cain, once the pouty star of tv’s Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman (1993-7), gives an appropriately handsome and cocky performance. Co-star Wesley Snipes executive produces and has mounted Futuresport via his Amen Ra production company. It is hard to know what Snipes was thinking when it came to his performance where he plays everything through a bad Jamaican accent. When he delivers lines like “My people don’t give a ding-dong-diddly what flag fly over Hawaii?” or “Dead men can’t earn dada,” you realise that Snipes has discovered the tattiness of the film he thought he was making and is determined to exercise his contempt either of everyone else or Ernest Dickerson by delivering the most ridiculous performance he can.

Trailer here

Full film available here

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