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THE PLAYER (Blu-Ray)
There aren't a lot of 'insider' films about Hollywood that are really all that good, although there certainly have been quite a few made. They say, "write what you know" but that has only paid off for a mere handful of L.A. denizens writing about their home environment. At the very top of the heap is (of course) the highly lauded classic "Sunset Boulevard" and, I would venture to say equally (*gasp*) my favorite Robert Altman film, 1992's "The Player". Its savaging and funny look at Hollywood's superficiality would make a perfect companion film for a double feature night with "Kiss Kiss Bang Bang" or "Swimming with Sharks".
Tim Robbins plays Griffin Mill, a Hollywood producer who has started to get threatening anonymous postcards from, he presumes, a disgruntled script writer whose work he rejected. He guesses its one guy in particular (Vincent D'Onofrio) and he seeks him out, trying to placate him with an offer for a screenwriting deal. The two get kind of drunk at a bar, D'Onofrio gets rude and belligerent, in particular about a tender subject for Mill, the security of his position with new up-and-comer Peter Gallagher nipping at his heels, and Mill ends up murdering D'Onofrio in a rage. Even with studio security (Fred Ward) and police detectives (Whoopi Goldberg and Lyle Lovett) looking at Mill as the chief suspect in the crime, he brazenly begins dating and falls for D'Onofrio's now single girlfriend (Greta Scacchi). Even worse, it looks like the man he killed wasn't the postcard writer after all as new messages keep showing up.
"The Player" is a masterpiece, no question, a sublimely cynical take on the movie business that tells its story with Hitchcockian weight. And did I mention the cameos? No less than 61 celebrities show up playing themselves at points of the movie. Say what you will about Altman, people LOVED working with him, even when he was viciously savaging their own industry. And oh boy, does he ever. Some are certainly going to take the film out of its context and find it all a little too disturbingly cynical, especially towards the end, and that's unfortunate. It might be the most honest work of art ever directed at the Hollywood studio system. That's really saying something considering it was made inside of it.
The blu-ray doesn't tack on anything that wasn't on the last DVD release (commentary with Altman and the writer Michael Tolkin, 13 minutes of deleted scenes, 17 minute interview with Altman) and frankly, I would have expected a better and more loving re-release of a film this important and beloved. But perhaps, some folks at the studio are still smarting just a bit from it. I know I would be. Ouch.
CLICK HERE TO BUY The Player [Blu-ray]