MOVIE: **** (out of 5)
BLU-RAY EXPERIENCE: *** (out of 5)
Tim Robbins as GRIFFIN MILL
Greta Scacchi as JUNE GUDMUNDSDOTTIR
Fred Ward as WALTER STUCKEL
Whoopi Goldberg as DETECTIVE AVERY
Peter Gallagher as LARRY LEVY
Brion James as JOEL LEVISON
Cynthia Stevenson as BONNIE SHEROW
Vincent D’Onofrio as DAVID KAHANE
Directed by: Robert Altman
BY KEVIN CARR
WHAT IT’S ABOUT
In 1992, maverick director Robert Altman made “The Player,” a film that revealed the unseemly truth of the Hollywood system. A simple story about a studio executive named Griffin Mill (Tim Robbins) who is being harassed by a scorned writer quickly turns into a murder mystery when Mill murders the wrong writer. He spends his time covering his tracks and avoiding the police who are looking into the murder.
WHAT I LIKED
Ask anyone who has an interest in film about “The Player,” and before they talk about the murder, the crimes, the sex or the other elements of the film, they will stampede towards the biting satire of the Hollywood system. Having spend some time in the periphery of that system, I can assure that there’s more truth in this film than most would like to admit, and that’s what makes it so brilliant.
The dark film noir storyline that is woven into this movie is decent enough, and Tim Robbins made a name for himself when he starred in this film. It’s not a bad story, but it’s secondary to the revelation of the insanity of Hollywood. From the eight-minute tracking shot at the beginning of the film (which makes fun of itself by referencing similar shots in films like “Touch of Evil”) to the ridiculous pitches we hear throughout the film, Altman lets us vacation in Hollywood for a bit but not too long to feel smothered.
Looking back on the film 18 years after its release, it’s still fascinating to watch. Sure, the cuts of the suits are different, and the hair is much bigger, but the game – and the players – haven’t changed.
Hollywood loves movies about itself. The greater irony of this movie is that everyone involved in the film from the principles to the cameos are convinced that the movie is not about them. Here’s the greatest gag of the movie… it is precisely about them. Every recognizable name in this film is there because their names mean something, and that makes them as much of a pawn of their own industry as anything else.
The players are pointing fingers at other players here and insisting it’s not about them. The truth is, it is. It’s about everyone, including Robert Altman himself (which he admits to in the special features).
WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE
The only problems I had with this film is when it became less about Hollywood and the backdrop and became about the character of Griffin Mill. The guy is an asshole, as was pointed out by Burt Reynolds in the beginning. I don’t really care to see him trying to make amends, and his romance with Greta Scacchi’s character is too much of a diversion. However, I suppose it needs to be there to fit the elements of the studio system it is so deftly skewering.
The newly released Blu-ray includes features from the DVD release, including a commentary with Robert Altman and original author Michael Tolkin and the original theatrical trailer. There’s also several deleted scenes, but you can also watch those embedded in the featurette “One on One with Robert Altman.”
WHO’S GOING TO LIKE THIS MOVIE