Customer Reviews: The Player (Special Edition) (New Line Platinum Series)
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"Players only love you when they're playing." --Stevie Nicks

Griffin Mill, whose name has a kind of ersatz Hollywood feel to it (cf., D. W. Griffith/Cecil B. De Mille), is not a player with hearts so much as a player with dreams. He is a young and powerful film exec who hears thousands of movie pitches a year, but can only buy twelve. So he must do a lot of dissembling, not to mention outright lying, along with saying "We'll get back to you," etc. This is what he especially must say to writers. And sometimes they hold a grudge. In this case one of the rejected writers begins to stalk Griffin Mill and send him threatening postcards. And so the plot begins.

Tim Robbins, in a creative tour de force, plays Griffin Mill with such a delightful, ironic charm that we cannot help but identify with him even as he violates several layers of human trust. The script by Michael Tolkin smoothly combines the best elements of a thriller with a kind of Terry Southern satirical intent that keeps us totally engrossed throughout. The direction by Robert Altman is full of inside Hollywood jokes and remembrances, including cameos by dozens of Hollywood stars, some of whom get to say nasty things about producers. The scenes are well-planned and then infused with witty asides. The tampon scene at police headquarters with Whoopi Goldberg is an hilarious case in point, while the sequence of scenes from Greta Scacchi's character's house to the manslaughter scene outside the Pasadena Rialto, is wonderfully conceived and nicely cut. Also memorable is the all black and white dress dinner scene in which Cher is the only person in red, a kind of mean or silly joke, depending on your perspective. During the same scene Mill gives a little speech in which he avers that "movies are art," a statement that amounts to sardonic irony since, as a greedy producer, he cares nothing at all about art, but only about box office success. His words also form a kind of dramatic irony when one realizes that this movie itself really is a work of art. As Altman observes in a trailing clip, the movie "becomes itself." The Machiavellian ending illustrates this with an almost miraculous dovetailing. This is the kind of script that turns most screen writers Kermit-green with envy.

Incidentally, Joe Gillis, the Hollywood writer played by William Holden in Sunset Boulevard--personifying all unsuccessful screen writers--actually does call during the movie, but Mill doesn't recognize the name and has to be told he is being put on, further revealing the narrow confines of his character.

In short, this is a wonderfully clever, diabolically cynical satire of Hollywood and the movie industry. This is one of those movies that, if you care anything at all about film, you must see. Period. It is especially delicious if you hate Hollywood. It is also one of the best movies ever made about Hollywood, to be ranked up there with A Star is Born (1937) (Janet Gaynor, Fredric March); Sunset Boulevard (1950); A Star is Born (1954) (Judy Garland, James Mason); and Postcards from the Edge (1990).

I must add that in the annals of film, this has to go down as one of the best Hollywood movies not to win a single Academy Award, although it was nominated for three: Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Editing. I suspect the Academy felt that the satire hit a little too close to home for comfort.

--Dennis Littrell, author of "Cut to the Chaise Lounge or I Can't Believe I Swallowed the Remote!"
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on January 29, 2004
Can movies about the movie business actually be exciting and worth watching? "The Player" most certainly is an exciting and worth-while film that has many layers within it. At first glance, this appears only as an odd thriller that's both bizarre and unbelievable--but upon further investigation, you'll find out that this is something that is so much more than your ordinary thriller.
Griffin Mill is a studio executive that listens to movie pitches on a daily basis. Some pitches are great while others aren't as fantastic. One of the writers that Griffin never called back seems to have held a grudge against him, as he sends him threatening post-cards telling the exec that his days are numbered. Not knowing what else to do, Griffin decides to confront the suspected writer only to end up being involved in a murder. As he tries to cover his tracks and play it cool, it is clear that Griffin has been thrown into an uncontrollable scenario that could only be found in the movies.
I admit that the first time I saw this film, I didn't really know how to react to it. I didn't know if I liked it, but I knew that I didn't hate it. And, I confess that by the end of the movie, I was scratching my head in confusion. It was the second viewing where I really found out what the movie was all about and came to love it. The movie is not your typical thriller. It actually is more of a satire that targets the movie industry and movies in general. And, it's done in such a way that you really don't catch onto that with the first viewing, as you're caught up in the story and are convinced that you're watching nothing more than a thriller. This movie has a number of layers to it--even layers that I probably haven't caught onto yet. You know a film has unquestionable power when you are tricked into believing that it is something else the first time and then come to realize that it is something completely different the next time around.
The film is brilliantly directed by Robert Altman. There's no way in heck that the movie would be the success it is had it been under a different director. He knew exactly what he wanted and how to get it. The acting from Tim Robbins and company is really a sight to see. It's also a treat to see so many cameos by different famous actors that we all know and love.
The DVD has a few goodies to offer for those who enjoy DVD extras. The picture is decent looking--nothing extraordinary, but decent. It says on the back cover that it was remastered in "High Definition," but I think improvements could've been made in certain areas. Extras on the DVD include commentary from the director and writer, a Robert Altman featurette, deleted scenes, the original trailer and more. A pretty nice package that doesn't disappoint with exception towards picture quality in some areas.
"The Player" is a superbly executed film that doesn't jump out right away to let you know what it is really all about. On the first viewing, the movie appears to be nothing more than an off-the-wall thriller, but on a second viewing you will come to find that it is something more. It's not a movie that will be loved by everybody, but for those who love odd films with hidden structures and meanings will absolutely love it. If you have an open-mind and want to take a chance by seeing something that isn't so ordinary, "The Player" awaits for you. -Michael Crane
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on April 11, 2002
"The Player" is one of those fascinating comedic thrillers with one defined dramatic plot, and various subplots dealing with the movie industry. Player is not a fast paced thriller, but rather an intelligent and laid back story surrounded by Hollywood and the business of film making. Tim Robbins plays Griffin Mill, a studio executive whose main job is to decide which scripts make it to the big screen. When he starts receiving threatening postcards, he suspects they come from a writer whose script was turned down. Hence, he tries to identify the writer in order to pay him off and stop the blackmail. Apparently he found the writer , apparently not. Murder. Whoopi Goldberg's performance as detective Avery, investigating the murder, is simply wonderful and provides humor with her spicy language. For the rest of the plot, you must see the movie. Directed by Robert Altman (Gosford Park), Player's cast include Greta Scacchi, Peter Gallagher, Fred Ward, Lyle Lovett and numerous cameo appearances by familiar faces such as Lily Tomlin, Bruce Willis, Robert Wagner, Susan Sarandon, Julia Roberts, Nick Nolte, Andie McDowell, John Cusack, to name a few. Besides the main plot, this is certainly a good perspective of how decisions are made in Hollywood, and the dynamics and politics of movie making . Player views the "film noir" and independent film making alternatives, and flirts with the concepts of dissociation of the big studios with the artistic ("Ars Gratia Artis") philosophies of the old days, those being replaced with the "money-making-happy-ending" driving forces of modern day Hollywood. DVD version.
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VINE VOICEon October 23, 2006
"The Player" could be considered Altman's "Big Lebowski" in that it withholds much of its pleasure from the first viewing and then begins to grow on you after you have seen it a couple times. This is because it is basically a huge inside joke on mainstream Hollywood film-making, with too many obscure references for a Hollywood outsider to effectively process the first time around.

Also like "The Big Lebowski, the satire and sardonic wit is packaged around what appears to be a crime drama, with the straight drama itself engaging enough to entertain most viewers the first time around.

Tim Robbins plays Griffin Mill, a high level studio executive whose job is listening to the countless pitches that come his way from aspiring writers wanting to get their screen play into production. The studio only produces a dozen features a year so Griffin mostly hands out rejections. He has made at least one major enemy during the process, an unknown writer who begins sending him threatening postcards.

Griffin thinks he has a line on the identity of his enemy, an unpublished writer named David Kahane (Vincent D'Onofrio-Private Pyle in "Full Metal Jacket) who lives in the valley with his artist girlfriend (Greta Scacchi). But their confrontation goes bad and Griffin accidentally kills him. Things get worse for Griffin; he becomes the main suspect for the murder, he gets a post-murder postcard revealing that he murdered the wrong guy, and he is in danger of being replaced by a newly hired hotshot Larry Levy (Peter Gallagher).

"The Player" is most famous for an eight-minute tracking shot at the very beginning of the film, self-reflexively compared to Hitchcock's "Rope" and to Welles' "Touch of Evil"; and full of Altman's trademark overlapping dialogue. Also notable are the 50 or so actors who make cameo appearances throughout the feature; most just play themselves (it is after all set in Hollywood) and it is entertaining just trying to identify everyone.

The DVD has a commentary by Altman and writer Michael Tolkin. Unfortunately Altman's film-making style does not lend itself to organized reflection so he mostly just rambles on about everything but the film; and Tolkin has major issues with the whole Hollywood scene so his commentary is just a continuous rant and whine about the system.

It is important to remember that Altman is essentially a Hollywood black sheep who has been at war with Hollywood his whole career. The Hollywood establishment is uncomfortable with him because he won't make their standard pre-sold product and yet he manages to crank out enough commercial successes on his own terms to keep them off balance.

"The Player" is kind of his revenge picture, he knew that its production would cause a wave of paranoia to sweep the industry and he made paranoia the defining characteristic of the film. He views Hollywood as a marketing machine that both drives and is driven by the lowest common denominator of audience demographics.

During the opening tracking shot look for Griffin's meeting with Buck Henry, who pitches a sequel to "The Graduate" (Elaine and Benjamin have a daughter and he suggests "The Postgraduate" for the sequel's title). Henry improvised this pitch which is funnier with each viewing, and appropriately also had a cameo in "The Graduate".

These film allusions are everywhere as Hollywood's past seems to be passing judgment on its pathetic present. Watch for the bungled meeting at the hotel, the scene ends with the camera centered on a picture of Hitchcock on the hotel wall-a shot of about the same duration as a typical Hitchcock cameo (in his own films).

For sheer comedy watch for Griffin's visit to police headquarters where the Pasadena detective (Whoopi Goldberg), interviews him in the busy squad room. Another detective (Lyle Lovett) is a movie buff who keeps chanting "One of us! One of us!" from "Freaks".

Griffin plots to derail the threat inside the studio by setting up Levy with a script pitched by self-styled auteur Tom Oakley (Richard E. Grant). It's a Susan Hayward vehicle with the heroine going to the gas chamber because "it's reality, and that's what happens." Oakley wants real which means no stars and a non-Hollywood ending. Julia Roberts and Bruce Willis are mentioned as exactly type of casting Oakley does not want; which foreshadows his pending commercial corruption and artistic compromise.

This is a film that is meant to be watched closely (the beginning tracking shot is Altman's way of getting our attention and warning us that we will need to pay attention). Audience involvement is very important to him and he is counting on a motivated audience who brings considerable prior knowledge to the viewing.

Then again, what do I know? I'm only a child.
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on May 27, 2016
Robert Altman`s masterpiece The Player is a terrifically entertaining inside look at Hollywood and its agents pre Entourage ( that even features Jeremy Piven in a small role ironically) That gets better and better with repeat viewings. Its filled to the brim with a fantastic cast and countless cameos. Tim Robbins gives his best performance as a creep Hollywood agent who gets involved with a murder
that we actually end up rooting for even though he`s a villain through the entire movie. Everyone else is great as well especially Whoopi Goldberg as a
hilarious detective. This is one of those movies inside of a movie inside of a movie. Some might find it dated due to being 1992 Hollywood but I also think
that anyone can admit that 1992 Hollywood was much better than Hollywood today. The Player`s script is fantastic and features one of my favorite scenes in film history when Tim Robbins gives his speech about the industry and the importance of great films at the awards show. If you`re a true film lover you will love The Player.
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VINE VOICEon March 22, 2000
This is a great film about film execs in Hollywood. A good mystery with biting humor and insight into the power/control world of movie-making. Tim Robbins is excellent in the lead role and Robert Altman's directing is superior. The story is great, especially if you've been an actor, director, producer or anyone in dealing with stage or film making. This is a must have for Altman fans and for movie collectors.
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on May 1, 2016
I think very highly of Robert Altman. I've actually only seen a fraction of his work, but what I have seen (A Wedding, M*A*S*H, Gosford Park, Nashville) is impressive. I was a bit disappointed with the ending and if you see this film and are quite satisfied with the ending, what I just said probably sounds like I missed the point of the film. (I didn't, actually.).
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on February 2, 2016
Awesome irony! I love stories about the way Hollywood works. It reminds me of something Leonard said on the Big Bang theory-"better watch that new Star Wars movie on Blu-ray b4 George Lucas changes it again
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on December 10, 2014
Interesting Robert Altman movie. Makes one realize how bloodless Hollywood is-wow. The important thing is that the protagonist landed on his feet with his garden, white picket fence and beautiful, pregnant wife. Altman nailed Hollywood executives, and his comment on this movie was that "this is only a mild commentary on some of the people I've encountered in Hollywood." Must be a really crooked, venal place.
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on December 13, 2014
Not nearly as good as Gosford Park and Altman's later work, but it's still okay. You will have a surfeit of blue sky, sunshine, rail-thin cynical characters, and you will long for some good-natured physically imperfect humans.
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