Robert Altman's a biting satire on the Hollywood industry, The Player
, has always been acknowledged by insiders as too close to the truth for comfort. Opening with a self-referential nine-minute tracking shot around the studio lot where producer Griffin Mill (Tim Robbins) works, the story's intrigue begins with the first of several postcard death threats from a writer he's angered. After accidentally killing the wrong man, Mill moves from one star-studded lunch table to another. All the while he's hounded by the real writer and an obsession with "Ice Queen" artist June Gudmundsdotter (Greta Scacchi) who'd been the deceased's girlfriend. Altman's tradition of improvised dialogue makes each of the dozens of cameos a fascinating treat for movie fans. Blink and you'll miss Angelica Houston, John Cusack, Rod Steiger, or Bruce Willis and Julia Roberts who appear in the hilarious movie-within-a-movie finale. There's an endless list of terrific support from the likes of dry-witted Fred Ward, fly-swatting Lyle Lovett, or tampon-twirling Whoopi Goldberg. Aside from the star-spotting and a script that crackles with sharp dialogue, this also warrants acknowledgement for being the movie to set off an explosion of independent film in the Nineties.
On the DVD: there's a commentary track (which leaves the film's soundtrack playing a little too loud) from director Altman who talks at length about the poor state of today's industry, and writer Michael Tolkin who contributes about ten minutes of veiled displeasure about the treatment of a writer's work. There are five grainy deleted scenes featuring lost cameos from Tim Curry, Jeff Daniels, and Patrick Swayze. Then in a 16-minute featurette a lot of the deleted footage is repeated around an interview with Altman. A trailer rounds out the package. --Paul Tonks
Movie executive Griffin Mill (Tim Robbins) is receiving death threats from an anonymous screenwriter. Deducing that the letters are coming from rejected hopeful David Kahane (Vincent D'Onofrio), Griffin sets up an 'accidental' meeting with the writer and, during an argument, kills him. While the police investigate the murder, Griffin begins to date the dead writer's girlfriend, but the death threats continue to pour in. Directed by Robert Altman (his first mainstream film for over a decade), this star-studded satire on Hollywood morality features cameos from Bruce Willis, Julia Roberts, Cher, Andie MacDowell, Burt Reynolds, Rod Steiger and John Cusack.