The Player (1992)

the player poster 1992 movie
9.0 Overall Score
Story: 9/10
Acting: 9/10
Visuals: 9/10

Great cast, smart satire, perfect Hollywood movie


Movie Info

Movie Name: The Player

Studio: Avenue Pictures

Genre(s): Comedy/Drama

Release Date(s):  April 3, 1992 (Cleveland International Film Festival)/May 8, 1992 (US)

MPAA Rating: R

the player tim robbins cynthia stevenson

“Can we talk about something other than Hollywood for a change?”

Griffin Mill (Tim Robbins) is part of the top brass at a major studio, but over the years, Mill has made more enemies than he has allies.  With people like Larry Levy (Peter Gallagher) always gunning for his place and friends who are more “business”, Mill discovers someone has decided he wronged him.  When Mill realizes that a writer named David Kahane (Vincent D’Onofrio) is behind the threats, an ill-fated meeting leads to Mill being in more danger than he ever expected.  Not only his position in the studio threatened, but police are closing in on him…and Mill might have made a career of getting box-office success, but he just might have made his biggest and most dangerous dud yet.

Directed by Robert Altman, The Player is a comedy-drama Hollywood satire.  The movie is an adaptation of Michael Tolkin’s 1988 book (with Tolkin adapting) and was released to critical acclaim.  It received Academy Award nominations for Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Film Editing.  The Criterion Collection released a remastered version of the film (Criterion #812).

The Player was one of my earliest Altman movies, and by then, Altman has really found his groove.  With an expansive cast and cameos from all aspects of Hollywood, The Player is an ode to Hollywood…the good and the bad.

the player murder tim robbins

Scene of the crime

The movie creates a good anti-hero in Griffin Mill.  He is really unlikable.  He’s shallow, sees dollars, disloyal, backstabbing, and cocky, and for those reasons, Griffin is successful.  Despite all this, you don’t want to see him get caught as he gets deeper and deeper.  While this whole aspect is playing out, the cinematic and “fake” nature of Hollywood comes to the forefront with Mill’s reality blending with film and a mocking of the Hollywood product.  Selling out is success…and everyone wants success.

Part of what makes Robbins successful in this film is that he has always seemed like an “everyman”.  If Robbins didn’t have money and fame, he probably wouldn’t get a second glance on the street (except for his height).  He seems really normal and the type of guy who would ride the wave of Hollywood fame in a producer position.  He’s backed by a strong circle of supporting characters including Greta Scacchi, Fred Ward, Peter Gallagher, Brion James, Cynthia Stevenson, Vincent D’Onofrio, Richard E. Grant, Dean Stockwell, Sydney Pollack, Lyle Lovette, and others, but then within the supporting cast, Altman cast a number of Hollywood actors as themselves…many with just cameos (which makes the movie fun to watch), but some with some great biting one liners like Burt Reynolds and Malcolm McDowell which demonstrate the fake friends feel of Hollywood.

Is this a movie about movies or the story of a movie about a movie?

The movie is a great skillful blend of a traditional movie and a reflexive post-modern movie.  The story dips in and out of reality from the onset starting with a clapboard to commence the film.  It is loaded with surreal scenes like everyone at the precinct laughing which makes you question if you watching a movie about the story or the story itself.  The films perfect visuals of Hollywood paint a rosy picture complete with a happy ending…something proclaimed that every movie must have.

The Player is a smart Hollywood movie which mocks Hollywood movies.  It was kind of before the really, really big boom of independent films and despite the star power, it feels a bit like an independent film in spirit and storytelling.  Altman shows his skill in movies like this, but this also feels a bit more personal and on point when compared to sprawling movies like Nashville and Short Cuts…this is Altman that everyone can enjoy.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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