Review by: Matt Brighton and Fusion3600
Posted on: January 28th, 2012
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Plot: What’s it about?

Griffin Mill (Tim Robbins) is a studio executive who has a successful past in the industry. While his past has been good, his present isn’t faring as well, and his job security isn’t what it used to be. Besides rubbing elbows with stars and directors, Mill usually listens to writers pitch their latest works, in hopes of turning their screenplay into a movie. Some of them get made, but most of them end up getting the old “don’t call us, we’ll call you” line. When Griffin rejects a script, he just never calls the people back, leaving them in wonderment as to the status of their screenplay. This tactic saves Griffin from a confrontation with the writer, but it also runs the risk of angering the writer, which is what happens in one case. Griffin has been receiving death threats, he believes the culprit is a writer whom he has scorned, and he even thinks he knows which one. When Griffin arrives at the writer’s home to discuss the issue, he finds only the writer’s wife, who informs Griffin that the man is at a local theater. He goes to the theater, meets the writer, and after a small scuffle, ends up drowning the man in a mudpuddle. It seems as though Griffin’s problems are solved, but now it looks as though he has killed the wrong writer, and trouble is building around Mill. First, he begins an affair with the deceased writer’s wife (Greta Scacchi), then he has a relentless detective (Whoopi Goldberg) on his trail all the time, and now the death threats have started up again. With his career, not to mention his personal life, falling to pieces around him, can Griffin escape this madness?

If you’re a movie buff, this is one flick you simply cannot miss. This movie offers a satiric glimpse at the madness behind magic of the movies, such as concept pitches and private lives of the executives. While this is mostly fictional in essence, I am sure shards of truth can be pulled from many of the scenes. The writing is outstanding, based on a novel by Michael Tolkin, who also wrote the screenplay. As Griffin’s life falls apart, it’s almost graceful how other workers can sense the blood in the water, and prepare to make moves after Griffin’s fall. This mean spirited edge is what makes this movie so damn good, as there is no sugar coating as to this world works. The phrase “movie magic” has no meaning here, the only magic to Griffin Mill is money and name dropping. Another reason this movie works so well is the plethora of cameos by celebrities and other industry types, which fleshes out the world inside the movie. It makes the events seem more realistic when random actors are just walking through scenes, like this is just another day. I have seen this movie several times, and it seems as though each time I view it, I see one or two new faces that I didn’t catch before. The layers of detail in the scenes is excellent, and really makes the replay value very high.

This movie was directed by one of the finest in the business, Mr. Robert Altman. Altman is a master behind the camera, and this movie is a perfect choice for him. With an ensemble cast like this movie has, Altman is the perfect choice, as he has turned out many excellent flicks with large casts. Nashville, Ready To Wear, and Short Cuts all spring right into my mind as outstanding Altman movies with an ensemble cast. Other wonderful Altman films include Kansas City, Popeye, M*A*S*H, and Streamers. While this movie sports a very large number of actors, there is a true lead, which is played by Tim Robbins. Robbins (The Hudsucker Proxy, Arlington Road) has one of the most varied resumes out there, and is able to bring almost any character across well. This role is no exception, Robbins is totally believable as Griffin, both during arrogant times and the desperate days. Other actors with major roles include Whoopi Goldberg (Eddie, Ghost), Greta Scacchi (Emma, The Red Violin), Fred Ward (Tremors, Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins), Peter Gallagher (The Man Who Knew Too Little, American Beauty), and Brion James (Tango & Cash, Cherry 2000). As I mentioned above, the movie is filled with smaller roles and cameos, so I will list only a few of these. Vincent D’Onofrio, Lyle Lovett, Gina Gershon, Sydney Pollack, Susan Sarandon, Rod Steiger, Jeff Daniels, and Patrick Swayze. Believe me, there are many, many more, but time and space don’t allow me to list them all.

Video: How does it look?

Admittedly, it’d been about a decade since I’d seen “The Player” and times and technology has changed by leaps and bounds. Having said that, the 1.77:1 VC-1 HD transfer does look good and did manage to surprise me a bit. The movie is nearly twenty years old and though not “old” by any stretch of the imagination, does have a very sleek-looking transfer. Detail has been improved and one thing that I noticed is the near pristine print. Don’t get me wrong, there are a few nicks and bumps along the way, but I’d always considered this film somewhat of a “B” movie so wasn’t expecting too much in terms of picture quality. Thankfully I was wrong.

Audio: How does it sound?

It’s a bit hit and miss when you see “DTS HD Master Audio” on the back of a catalog title from 1992. That’s a mouthful when you consider the variety of titles that contain this wording. However, “The Player” does feature a pretty impressive soundtrack that’s very much dialogue driven. Altman was renown for his use of dialogue and it often overlapped (as in the opening sequence showing the studio backlot). But this is a pretty strong effort here and again, color me impressed.

Supplements: What are the extras?

This appears to be a rehash of the DVD that came out several years ago, we get the same seventeen minute featurette, which focuses on Robert Altman. While I enjoyed the piece, I wish more was present about this movie, instead of the director. Five deleted scenes, the theatrical trailer, and a commentary with Altman and writer Michael Tolkin round out the extras. The commentary track is good, but some pauses appear. Altman’s voice is not the most pleasant to listen to, but he gives some good sound bytes, that’s for sure. So if you’re looking for an upgrade in terms of audio and video, this is for you otherwise this will easily replace the DVD.

The Player (Blu-ray)
Robert Altman
Warner (New Line)
124 min.

  • (1.77:1)
  • Video Codec: VC-1
  • 1 Disc Set
  • Theatrical Trailer
  • Audio Commentary
  • Deleted Scene(s)
  • Featurette
  • Documentary
  • Digital Copy