on 19 September 2015
Although being one of the best and most acclaimed films by Altman, the Players is still a partially misunderstood and underrated film (as some of the masterpieces of such a complex and unusual director). Presented on a pretty good blu ray (where the main feature is good sound quality, which has always been the real added and distinctive value of his cinema) the Players is not just a film with a story and a plot, but a real cinematographic experience. Not in the Avatar way (a sensorial/mind trip in a totally different world) but because everything in this film is manipulated, is brilliantly adopted and used to play with the viewer, from the amazing opening one-shot sequence that talks about one-shots sequence in the movies, to the presence of posters and advertising in the scenes that seem to talk to te viewer, from the manipulation of genre and cliche to talk about hollywood cliche, from the unsettling use of audio during conversations and the bizarre behaviour of some characters that seem to act, everything in this film is cinema about cinema, but Altman does not mean just to talk about Hollywood, but about American way-of-life in general, that has become as cliche as its films. It is a cynical and mockering film, where you do not know to what extent you can trust what you see and sympathize with characters, because they do not look like real people. The Players is truly a film way ahead of mainstream way of film viewing, although it feeds itself of that kind of world, while it is criticizing it. A genius film
on 19 June 2001
Based on an original novel by Michael Tolkin, Robert Altman's respose to Hollywood and all its pretences is a modern classic. The tone is consistently ironic throughout the film, yet The Player manages to succeed as a terse and involved thriller, not only a personal reflection of the treachery and immorality; falsity and inhumanity, of the world of movies. The Player is predominantly a story of studio executive Griffin Mill (Tim Robbins), and his demise from the most sought after Hollywood executive to a man plagued by his own prosperity. The film opens with an eight minute single-shot scene that establishes the glory of Altman's direction, and the film offers over 60 cameos, including Susan Sarandon, Bruce Willis and Julia Roberts, that only increase the satire. Through the course of the film, Altman manages to challenge not only his audience's conscience and morality, but also their perceptions of Hollywood. As Griffin Mill receives death threats, he is forced to decide how to react, and when he tries to find who has been torturing him, it leads only to more calamity. In a stunning third act and shocking denouement, Altman reveals one of the most inspired and exciting films of the 1990s. The Player includes, as well as numerous cameos from Hollywood actors, a wonderful performance from Robbins as a tortured and confused executive searching for answers; a suitably bizarre Whoopi Goldberg as a police officer; and an ironic, knowing rendition of the struggling screenwriter by Richard E. Grant. The Player is truly a monumental achievement. Robert Altman has succeeded in creating an involved, humorous film that manages to question the nature of the film industry, its role in today's society, and its implications for all those who have ever called themselves a fan of the silver screen.
Famously opening with possibly the longest continuous single crane shot in cinematic history (eight minutes) with the pre-credits rolling, shot outside a major studio and its parking lot and known as the ultimate anti-Hollywood 'Hollywood' movie, this is Robert Altman directing with a grip of iron. Almost over-directed for my taste, the camera swoops, rises and peeks at more A-listers than you'd get in two dozen blockbusters.
Not having seen it in four years but with many many other films under my belt, I was keen to re-hear both the subtle and unsubtle jokes and jibes about the Studio 'scene'. All our A-listers make them, suffer them or just hang about thinking them up. One of the best has to be (executive travelling in his Merc convertible, on car-phone; it's the end 80's, start of 90's, all flash cars) talking to his associate, Tim Robbins (lead actor in this) "I'm on my way to my AA meeting." "Oh...I didn't know you had a drinking problem" "Ah, well. I haven't. I don't. It's just that's where all the deals are made these days. Not bars".
So, not a comedy, as such, but entertaining stuff and the ending is as predictably anti-predictable that one can predict. It's aged well and Short Cuts aside, which meanders over its three hours, this is modern, witty, well made and concise. Yes; an Altman film that doesn't have the cast speaking whenever they feel fit and a script that they have to follow, even at two hours it's got a manageable story that twists, turns and bristles with actors you've seen in almost similar roles. For movie buffs, the often, occasional credibility-busting film references and how they're strung together is almost hypnotic.
Hollywood loved it, as it's in it and stars in it. But they don't love themselves, at least not in this. And that makes it enjoyable. You might not take the movie as seriously as it mockingly thinks it is/isn't and is at times a little shallow. All in all though, The Player is a modern great and a must-see for all serious film fans.
on 19 February 2008
One of my favourite films of the 90's, clever isnt the word. Tim Robbins excells as Hollywood executive Griffin Mill, who gets himself in hot water when dealing with a writer. To make things worse it looks like his job is up for grabs as there are changes happening within his studio. Things dont look good. Someone is out to get him but who..? The Player is packed full of real stars and real screenwriters where brought in to pitch films. Many brilliant performances from Richard E Grants elaborate pitches to Whoppi Goldbergs crafty detective. The in-jokes come thick and fast. All in all, a top notch thriller from Robert Altman. My only criticism is i hoped the new dvd would have better extras. Dont let that put you off though. Top film.
on 18 July 2007
This film is very enjoyable. There's so much there, you gotta watch it several times to enjoy all the lovingly subtle stuff in the background.
There's a thriller in there with the story of a stalker--life and death.
But the best bit is the in-joke about Hollywood, movie-making and those that straddle the business which is supposed to be artistic, but has been taken over by accountants and money-grubbing executives.
Enjoy the cameos, the clever bits, the story & the message. I sure did.
on 24 February 2004
'The Player' is a rare film that has very little violence but is quite excellent, eliminating the need for any such action. The story is intriguing and very entertaining but it is the performance by Tim Robbins that makes the film come to life. Director Robert Altman has made some good choices concerning script, cinematography and suspense which add up to make an extremely interesting piece of cinema. All of the actors are on top form with some entertaining cameos from several well known performers (e.g. Bruce Willis and Julia Roberts).
The fundamental story behind this thriller is that of a studio director who receives threatening letters. One thing leads to another and the plot progresses into a fascinating tale of murder. I don't want to give any more of the storyline away but it develops very well. Tim Robbins is, however, what makes this film brilliant. His perfect performance as the cold studio director is incredibly convincing and his facial expressions are stunning. Add to this the fine story and wonderful script and you have a marvellous 5 star film.
This is a must buy DVD if you are a fan of thrillers and even those who aren't should seriously consider the purchase. I would definitely recommend this DVD to anyone.
on 29 December 2012
Altman had a fascinating way of framing crowd scenes, with no master audio just all sound overlapping. That and the inherent voyeurism in this material make this film noir in the tradition of Sunset Boulevard as fascinating in its construction as it is in the storytelling.
Tim Robbins sleazy studio exec being tortured by an aggrieved writer spans all levels in Robert Altman's Hollywood satire, with countless Hollywood actors appearing as themselves. He must be on the money for 60 plus actors and creative types to appear as themselves. All this satire on the disposability of creative in the studio system is secondary to the story of Tim Robbins Griffin Mill and his murder case which plays with the paranoia of numbers, any number of writers could be torturing him and that unease is played with brilliant in Robbins performance and the haunting score by Thomas Newman.
The ending has a lot in common with a certain other 90s satire, only difference is this ending has humour. While not a patch on the genre's golden eras, the player is both a fascinating portrait of industry and a brilliant character led thriller that draws comparisons to American Psycho, Sunset Boulevard, Mulholland Dr. and Truffaut's Day for Night.
on 31 July 2011
The Amazon listing states this dvd features a commentary w/Robert Altman & michael Tolkin, however i enquired this with a seller and there is none on this dvd edition (there is also now another review featuring a complaint). I just bought and watched the earlier dvd (w/original Tim Robbins poster on front cover) and all special features are present, the commentary is very good as is the 16 min featurette (a one on one w/Altman), i even like the trailer (it uses the music to great effect). Also worth mentioning is the picture quality, which is excellent.
The stunning extended opening tracking shot of Robert Altman’s perceptive 1992 satire on the workings of Hollywood is not only an impressive technical achievement, as Altman’s cinematographer, Jean Lepine’s, floating camera eavesdrops (in typical Altman fashion) on tinseltown’s deal-makers, but it is also (essentially) the entire film in microcosm. Here, we get Tim Robbins’ 'executive producer’, Griffin Mill, debating a pitch, giving us a 'psychic, political, thriller, comedy with a heart’, a sort of 'Ghost meets The Manchurian Candidate’, and along with way revealing The Player’s full gamut of themes – namely Hollywood’s insularity, cultural ignorance, conservatism, arrogance, megalomania, extravagance, cynicism, pretence and (perhaps, most of all) focus on the bottom line. What follows is an innovative mix of (at times, Hitchcockian) murder mystery and black comedy, driven along by a witty, ironic script by Michael Tolkin (based on his eponymous book) and peppered with impressive acting turns which Altman mixes in (sometimes almost indistinguishably) with a vast ensemble of 'real-life Hollywood stars’ (assuming such a concept exists!) playing themselves.
The Player is likely to be a film particularly appreciated by cinema aficionados, with its constant string of references (dialogue, posters, books, photos, etc) but, perhaps more so than many of Altman’s films, its strong narrative – as Mill’s self-confidence is shattered by, first, the prospect of being usurped by Peter Gallagher’s incoming executive, Larry Levy, and, second, the 'poison pen letters’ (in the form of postcards, faxes, etc) he has started receiving (purportedly) from a disgruntled aspiring screenwriter – keeps us guessing and engaged throughout (increasingly mixing reality and fiction i.e. 'Hollywood-style tongue-in-cheek melodrama’, as the film progresses). Acting-wise, Altman’s cast is uniformly strong. Robbins nevertheless steals the show as the increasingly nervy, paranoid and desperate executive, struggling (in a satirical sense) to come to terms with his guilt, whilst Fred Ward is good as studio security man (and 'fixer’), Walter Stuckel, and Sydney Pollack, typically impressive as Mill’s lawyer and mentor, Dick Mellon (‘Rumours are always true’). There is also a brilliant cameo pairing of Dean Stockwell and Richard E Grant as (more) pitchers to Robbins’ deal-man (Grant being particularly full of impressive bluster). Greta Scacchi is also good as the laid-back, artistically-inclined (and oblique), June Gudmundsdottir, a stark contrast to the ambitious industry man.
It’s a film that perhaps meanders a little during its third quarter, but nevertheless concludes with another piece of cutting satire, making The Player, for me, a film sufficiently worthy to be mentioned in the same breath as other top films with similar themes, such as Sunset Boulevard, The Bad And The Beautiful, In A Lonely Place and Barton Fink.
on 23 November 2015
It was on the front page of Sight And Sound so we knew it was coming to town. It was aimed at people like me: appreciative of film's achievements but on the cusp of having to earn money. When the final reel unrolls it was a mighty, mighty surprise.