The Player (Blu-ray)
“A politely cynical psychic political thriller comedy… but with a heart.” this is just one of many great pitches within the film that is actually a fairly accurate description of the film itself. THE PLAYER is a rare gem, full of self-referential jabs at Hollywood. It is exactly what it is poking fun at but seriously clever enough to pull off a quality picture in it’s own parody.
Griffin Mill (Tim Robbins) is a studio executive who decides what movie pitches will be made into feature films. After rejecting so many people in his line of work he begins to receive life-threatening letters from an anonymous writer. As he goes down a path of blackmail, betrayal and murder he also must do his best to fight for his job in a two-faced environment.
THE PLAYER opens up with a brilliantly filmed eight and a half minute long tracking shot. While the shot is going on with many actors carrying on many different conversations, we see exactly what kind of movie we are getting into. We hear silly movie pitches that will be about different scenes in the film, for instance one of the conversations we hear is about famously long tracking shots. So while THE PLAYER is self indulgent in pretentiousness, it’s self aware of its Hollywood absurdism. It makes fun of Hollywood and itself simultaneously.
The cameos are quite impressive. Robert Altman (NASHVILLE, MASH, GOSFORD PARK) was one of those highly respected directors who never created blockbuster films. He was able to get producers, writers, directors and actors of the highest caliber to show up as extras in the background. Noticeable stars are John Cusack, James Coburn, Gary Busey, Cher, Peter Falk, Jeff Goldblum, Angelica Huston, Scott Glenn, Teri Garr, Dennis Franz, Lily Tomlin, Malcolm McDowell, Andie MacDowell, Nick Nolte, Burt Reynolds, Jack Lemmon and that’s just a handful.
The final pitch in THE PLAYER is exactly for the film we just watched. The happy ending, which is discussed, debated and made fun of throughout the film ironically happens and doesn’t happen at the same time. Not until after the overly clever film ends will you realize like in Hollywood (but not in the films) the bad guys win and the good guys lose and that ending couldn’t make the audience happier by being equally ridiculous and appropriate.
Video: (1080p HD 16×9 1.85:1) This definitely isn’t the best transfer I’ve seen.
Audio: (DTS-HD MA) Consisting of mostly small quiet conversations, the surround sound isn’t utilized much.
Commentary by Robert Altman and Michael Tolkin: The director and writer do the commentary separately and segments are edited together with some dead space from time to time. When they do talk it’s usually pretty interesting, especially from Altman. Both have different perspectives.
Deleted Scenes (13:32): 5 deleted scenes that were basically more of the same, Lyle Lovitt tailing Robbins who continues to greet and pow-wow with some big wigs including a few more cameos from Tim Curry, Jeff Daniels and Patrick Swayze. A couple of interesting moments but were wisely cut.
One On One with Robert Altman (16:54): The director discusses the film and some of the scenes and cameos he had to cut who were doing him a favor. I was hoping this would be more insightful but it mostly just reshows some of the deleted scenes. When Altman is talking it is extremely interesting.