Film: The Player (1992)

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Film:

The Player

Director: Robert Altman
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Genres:
Distributor: New Line Home Video

A wicked satirical fable about corporate backstabbing—and actual murder—in the movie business, The Player benefits from director Robert Altman’s long and bitter experience working within, and without, the Hollywood studio system. Rising young executive Griffin Mill (Tim Robbins) is tormented by threats from an anonymous writer. The pressure and paranoia build until Griffin loses control one night and semi-accidentally kills screenwriter David Kahane (Vincent D’Onofrio), who may or may not be the source of the threats. From that point, Griffin’s life and…

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A wicked satirical fable about corporate backstabbing—and actual murder—in the movie business, The Player benefits from director Robert Altman’s long and bitter experience working within, and without, the Hollywood studio system. Rising young executive Griffin Mill (Tim Robbins) is tormented by threats from an anonymous writer. The pressure and paranoia build until Griffin loses control one night and semi-accidentally kills screenwriter David Kahane (Vincent D’Onofrio), who may or may not be the source of the threats. From that point, Griffin’s life and career begin to fall apart. In keeping with the ironic spirit of the film itself, Altman’s scathingly funny attack on the moral bankruptcy of Hollywood was embraced by many of the same people it was intended to savage, and restored the director to commercial and critical favor. Michael Tolkin adapted the screenplay from his own novel, and the movie is studded with cameos by famous faces, many of whom appear as themselves. The digital video disc includes a commentary track with Altman and Tolkin, some deleted scenes, a documentary about Altman, and a key to help identify more than 50 of the picture’s big-name cameos. —Jim Emerson

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. —Paul Tonks

Related Works

Book:The Player: A Novel

The Player: A Novel

Michael Tolkin

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