The Player (1992) - Rotten Tomatoes

The Player (1992)



Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

Movie Info

Robert Altman takes a scalpel to Hollywood ethics in the 1990s (or the lack thereof) in his acidic satire The Player, adapted from Michael Tolkin's novel. (Tolkin also wrote the screenplay.) The film concerns a sleek and smooth Hollywood studio executive who starts receiving death threats from a disgruntled writer because he has committed the ultimate Hollywood sin -- he promised the writer he would call him back and he never did. This is particularly ironic because the studio executive, Griffin Mill (Tim Robbins), is considered "writer-friendly," spending his days listening to pitches from such noted screenwriters as Buck Henry, who is pushing "The Graduate, Part II" and Alan Rudolph, who is hawking a Bruce Willis action film described as "Ghost meets The Manchurian Candidate." But The Player finds Griffin's comfortable life style in danger of collapse. He is trying to find a way to unload his girlfriend (Cynthia Stevenson) whose independence and intelligence make her a poor candidate for a trophy wife. More importantly, it seems that Larry Levy (Peter Gallagher), a slippery executive from Twentieth Century Fox, is angling for his job. And then there are those nasty postcards and faxes from a screenwriter threatening to kill him. Altman cast over 65 stars in cameo roles as texture for his scabrous tale.more
Rating: R (for language, and for some sensuality)
Genre: Drama, Comedy
Directed By:
Written By: Michael Tolkin
In Theaters:
On DVD: Jul 16, 1997
Fine Line Features


Tim Robbins
as Griffin Mill
Greta Scacchi
as June Gudmundsdottir
Fred Ward
as Walter Stuckel
Whoopi Goldberg
as Detective Avery
Peter Gallagher
as Larry Levy
Brion James
as Joel Levison
Cynthia Stevenson
as Bonnie Sherow
Vincent D'Onofrio
as David Kahane
John Cusack
as Himself
Richard E. Grant
as Tom Oakley
Sydney Pollack
as Dick Mellon
Lyle Lovett
as Detective DeLongpre
Jeremy Piven
as Steve Reeves
Gina Gershon
as Whitney Gersh
as Herself
Peter Falk
as Himself
Jack Lemmon
as Himself
Nick Nolte
as Himself
Bruce Willis
as Himself
Paul Hewitt
as Jimmy Chase
Randall Batinkoff
as Reg Goldman
Frank Barhydt
as Frank Murphy
Mike E. Kaplan
as Marty Grossman
Kevin Scannell
as Gar Girard
Margery Bond
as Witness
Michael Tolkin
as Eric Schecter
Stephen Tolkin
as Carl Schecter
Pete Koch
as Walter
Steve Allen
as Himself
Karen Black
as Herself
Gary Busey
as Himself
James Coburn
as Himself
Brad Davis
as Himself
Paul Dooley
as Himself
Felicia Farr
as Herself
Kasia Figura
as Herself
Dennis Franz
as Himself
Teri Garr
as Herself
Scott Glenn
as Himself
Joel Grey
as Himself
Buck Henry
as Himself
Martin Mull
as Himself
Bert Remsen
as Himself
Guy Remsen
as Himself
Jack Riley
as Himself
Mimi Rogers
as Herself
Annie Ross
as Herself
Alan Rudolph
as Himself
Susan J. Emshwiller
as Detective Broom
Adam Simon
as Himself
Rod Steiger
as Himself
Brian Tochi
as Himself
Lily Tomlin
as Herself
Ray Walston
as Himself
Marvin Young
as Himself
Scott Shaw
as Himself (uncredited)
Steve James
as Himself
Show More Cast

News & Interviews for The Player

Critic Reviews for The Player

All Critics (56) | Top Critics (11)

[It's] supposed to be scathing, but the pleasure it affords is like what you get from watching the Oscars: celebrity spotting and in-jokes.

Full Review… | April 28, 2008
Chicago Reader
Top Critic

Mercilessly satiric yet good-natured, this enormously entertaining slam dunk quite possibly is the most resonant Hollywood saga since the days of Sunset Blvd. and The Bad and the Beautiful.

Full Review… | April 28, 2008
Top Critic

A movie about today's Hollywood -- hilarious and heartless in about equal measure, and often at the same time.

Full Review… | October 23, 2004
Chicago Sun-Times
Top Critic

Mr. Altman's most subversive message here is not that it's possible to get away with murder in Hollywood, but that the most grievous sin, in Hollywood terms anyway, is to make a film that flops.

May 20, 2003
New York Times
Top Critic

The Player has enough truly hilarious bits and inspired sequences-that baroque opening-sequence shot is a masterpiece in itself-to make it well worth your time, its very silly story is ultimately a fairly paltry piece of social commentary.

Full Review… | November 18, 2015
Vue Weekly (Edmonton, Canada)

Altman lets us vacation in Hollywood for a bit but not too long to feel smothered

Full Review… | January 19, 2014
7M Pictures

Audience Reviews for The Player

Doesn't start off well, but overall well played.

familiar stranger

Super Reviewer


Brilliantly constructed comedy drama, The Player is a richly detailed effort, one that has a well layered story that keeps you involved because you are left wondering how this will end. Hearing great things about the film, I gave a shot, but at times I felt like it was a bit overrated. The Player is far from a bad film and what we have here is a very good picture that combines effective storytelling with wonderful acting. I enjoyed the film, and felt it was well done, and it definitely kept you on the very edge of your seat despite the lack of truly entrancing storytelling. To me, this is a film that works well enough to make you think hard, and you get sense of that when you watch the film, but at the same time you wonder why the film has gotten so much praise. Tim Robbins is as usual in top form here and he acts quite well and he's a wonder to watch here on-screen. The Player is one of those movies that tend to be overhyped, but once you see it you are left wanting a bit more as well. Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed the film, but I simply didn't enjoy it as much as what everyone did. This is an engrossing picture, but there is a few times where the film could have been improved upon. Overall, this is well worth seeing, and it's a film that merits recommendations despite its flaws.

Alex roy

Super Reviewer

Written by Michael Tolkin (based on his novel of the same name), this is Robert Altman's middle finger to Hollywood and its ethics (or lack thereof) about a jaded and smooth talking studio executive named Griffin Mill. mill spends most of his day listening to movie pitches, and is very callous when it comes to picking what his studio should green light. He's in danger of losing his job to an even slicker rival, and more importantly, he begins receiving death threats from a disgruntled screenwriter whom he shafted. Fed up, Griffin commits a little murder, and begins wooing the victim's lady. Things get even MORE shaky when he realizes he may have killed the wrong writer.

This is a fairly scathing satire, but Altman said it's actually rather gentle. I was somewhat disappointed by this, as I had been lead to believe that this was a very bleak and ruthless look at the screwed up world of the Hollywood system. I still really enjoyed the movie, and I loved how Altman successfully bit the hand that fed him, but it just ended up being something a little different from what I was hoping for. Ironically, this was a big hit for the director, and it was part of his early 90s renaissance that revitalized his long but flailing career.

The film has great production values, and is pretty intelligent with its aims. The legendary opening is a roughly 8 minute long take that tracks through the studio lot, weaving in and out of Griffin hearing various (and ridiculous) movie pitches. What really makes it shine is that it is a long take that makes several references to other famous long takes, and all of the dialogue was improvised. That's how you start a movie!

The Player is also well known for having around 60 or so cameos by many well known entertainers, some for maybe just a second or two, with many of them appearance for little to no pay. I'm not going into all the details of who shows up, but trust me, there's plenty of recognizable faces. The main cast is where the film is also quite strong, with Tim Robbins's performance as Griffin being one of his best. Whoopi Goldberg and Lyle Lovett are also pretty good as two detectives who firmly believe that Mill is guilty, and will stop at nothing to prove it. I also really liked Peter Gallagher as Mill's rival.

All in all, this is a really good film. It's a tad overrated, but still worth checking out, especially if you dig Altman, satires, and/or movies about movie making.

Chris Weber

Super Reviewer

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