Thursday, October 1, 2015

'The Player' -- Always Bet on Black

The Player starring Wesley Snipes and Philip Winchester

I just couldn't resist using Wesley Snipes' famous line from "Passenger 57" to talk about his new show, "The Player." When initial news of this pilot came out, the plot line was one of the most absurd pitches out there. A group of filthy rich people bet big money on serious crimes--and whether "the player" will stop that crime and/or get killed in the process. Snipes plays Mr. Johnson, the pit boss over this little operation. And Charity Wakefield plays Cassandra, the dealer.

Philip Winchester Alex Kane The Player pics

Philip Winchester, whom some of you may know from "Strike Back" or "Fringe," was a fave of mine from his short-lived series "Crusoe." His former-military-man-turned-security-expert Alex is recruited to be "The Player," and he is as I remembered, a complete stud with just the right amount of sly charm.

Snipes gets to be a cool, smooth, enigmatic operator who's a total badass under those expensive suits. He also has an unexpected scene where he creates a hilarious fake persona that earns laughs, but also displays a bit chillingly how much power he has. And Wakefield infuses ice queen Cassandra with a surprising hint of warmth and affection for Alex--and not in a cliche, oh of course she's in love with him, way--there's an interesting level of meaningful earnestness in her performance.

Charity Wakefield Cassandra The Player pilot pics images screencaps

And "The Player" is actually pretty damn good. Yes, the plot is still totally crazy, but the show does a good job of talking its way around it. It lays the premise in right away, gives Alex good motivation for taking part in the insanity, and then rolls right into the action. It also gives us a solid hero to root for. The bettors don't give a crap about collateral damage, it's all a game to them. Alex is the guy who will care about the innocents, and we'll be cheering for him to succeed even while a bunch of faceless assholes are betting against him.

Alex on The Player Philip Winchester photos pics images

The series premiere also took an element of the show that totally angered me, a typical device that so often gets series/movies like this started. I'll keep this non-spoilery, but there's a twist at the end that totally relieved me of that anger, and which added a brilliant "WTF?" angle to the mystery of who Johnson and Cassandra really are.

So put this one on your DVR schedule, peeps. It's great popcorn television, and a respite from all the typical cop shows. Plus it's great to have Snipes bringing his welcome brand of Awesomeness into our lives each week.

"The Player" airs Thursday nights on NBC, at 10/9c.

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