The Player

January 28, 2012 10 Min Read

Review by: Fusion3600

Plot: What’s it about?

Griffin Mill (Tim Robbins) is a studio executive who has a successful past in the industry. While his past has been good, his present isn’t faring as well, and his job security isn’t what it used to be. Besides rubbing elbows with stars and directors, Mill usually listens to writers pitch their latest works, in hopes of turning their screenplay into a movie. Some of them get made, but most of them end up getting the old “don’t call us, we’ll call you” line. When Griffin rejects a script, he just never calls the people back, leaving them in wonderment as to the status of their screenplay. This tactic saves Griffin from a confrontation with the writer, but it also runs the risk of angering the writer, which is what happens in one case. Griffin has been receiving death threats, he believes the culprit is a writer whom he has scorned, and he even thinks he knows which one. When Griffin arrives at the writer’s home to discuss the issue, he finds only the writer’s wife, who informs Griffin that the man is at a local theater. He goes to the theater, meets the writer, and after a small scuffle, ends up drowning the man in a mudpuddle. It seems as though Griffin’s problems are solved, but now it looks as though he has killed the wrong writer, and trouble is building around Mill. First, he begins an affair with the deceased writer’s wife (Greta Scacchi), then he has a relentless detective (Whoopi Goldberg) on his trail all the time, and now the death threats have started up again. With his career, not to mention his personal life, falling to pieces around him, can Griffin escape this madness?

If you’re a movie buff, this is one flick you simply cannot miss. This movie offers a satiric glimpse at the madness behind magic of the movies, such as concept pitches and private lives of the executives. While this is mostly fictional in essence, I am sure shards of truth can be pulled from many of the scenes. The writing is outstanding, based on a novel by Michael Tolkin, who also wrote the screenplay. As Griffin’s life falls apart, it’s almost graceful how other workers can sense the blood in the water, and prepare to make moves after Griffin’s fall. This mean spirited edge is what makes this movie so damn good, as there is no sugar coating as to this world works. The phrase “movie magic” has no meaning here, the only magic to Griffin Mill is money and name dropping. Another reason this movie works so well is the plethora of cameos by celebrities and other industry types, which fleshes out the world inside the movie. It makes the events seem more realistic when random actors are just walking through scenes, like this is just another day. I have seen this movie several times, and it seems as though each time I view it, I see one or two new faces that I didn’t catch before. The layers of detail in the scenes is excellent, and really makes the replay value very high.

This movie was directed by one of the finest in the business, Mr. Robert Altman. Altman is a master behind the camera, and this movie is a perfect choice for him. With an ensemble cast like this movie has, Altman is the perfect choice, as he has turned out many excellent flicks with large casts. Nashville, Ready To Wear, and Short Cuts all spring right into my mind as outstanding Altman movies with an ensemble cast. Other wonderful Altman films include Kansas City, Popeye, M*A*S*H, and Streamers. While this movie sports a very large number of actors, there is a true lead, which is played by Tim Robbins. Robbins (The Hudsucker Proxy, Arlington Road) has one of the most varied resumes out there, and is able to bring almost any character across well. This role is no exception, Robbins is totally believable as Griffin, both during arrogant times and the desperate days. Other actors with major roles include Whoopi Goldberg (Eddie, Ghost), Greta Scacchi (Emma, The Red Violin), Fred Ward (Tremors, Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins), Peter Gallagher (The Man Who Knew Too Little, American Beauty), and Brion James (Tango & Cash, Cherry 2000). As I mentioned above, the movie is filled with smaller roles and cameos, so I will list only a few of these. Vincent D’Onofrio, Lyle Lovett, Gina Gershon, Sydney Pollack, Susan Sarandon, Rod Steiger, Jeff Daniels, and Patrick Swayze. Believe me, there are many, many more, but time and space don’t allow me to list them all.

Now come the time to pass judgment on both this movie and the disc itself. The movie is wonderful, and should not be missed by anyone, especially those who really love the movies. The performances are great, the writing is tremendous, and the direction of Robert Altman is once again amazing. So of course, I am going to recommend this movie to everyone who reads this review, and I feel it is a must see for most of you. Onto the disc itself, which is also quite a well crafted piece. With an excellent audio and video treatment, and a nice selection of bonus materials, I recommend the disc as a purchase, but if you’re skeptical, rent this first. But whichever method you choose, your money will be well spent, this is a fine disc for a fantastic flick.

Video: How does it look?

The Player is presented in a 1.77:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. The image is quite sharp, with only a few minor quibbles keeping it from elite status. During some of the interior scenes, some moire patterns appear, which were a little distracting. Aside from that, this is a spectacular transfer, with no compression errors and a very clean print as well. The colors are bright and vivid, and flesh tones are natural and consistent, except for a couple scenes where the flesh tones distorted slightly. The contrast levels are right on, high visible detail, with accurate and deep shadow layering.

Audio: How does it sound?

The audio is presented via a Dolby Digital 5.1 track, which more than handles this material well. While a movie of this style doesn’t depend on high impact audio, that doesn’t mean the audio experience isn’t good. The score sounds full, and the surrounds do see some action, just with subtle audio. Dialogue is the main focus, with each word ringing with clarity and volume consistency. It’s not a slap you in the face mix, but it sounds great for this type of movie.

Supplements: What are the extras?

While not as loaded as some other of New Line’s Platinum Series titles, this disc has more than its fair share of bonus features. Some discs feature talent files, as does this one. But this disc contains cast bios and filmographies for over fifty actors from the film! You can also access various cameo appearances via a special menu, which is a nice touch if you want a guide to the cameos, and there are many of them. A seventeen minute featurette is included, which focuses on Robert Altman. While I enjoyed the piece, I wish more was present about this movie, instead of the director. Five deleted scenes, the theatrical trailer, and a commentary with Altman and writer Michael Tolkin round out the extras. The commentary track is good, but some pauses appear. Altman’s voice is not the most pleasant to listen to, but he gives some good sound bytes, that’s for sure.

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