‘Players’ review: The mind-numbingly terrible Netflix rom-com
(Credits: Netflix)

Film Reviews

‘Players’ review: The mind-numbingly terrible Netflix rom-com

As someone who has watched her fair share of terrible films for the sake of writing reviews—sometimes at screenings, sometimes sitting alone in the shameful darkness of her room—I can vouch for how ick-inducing the Gina Rodriguez film Players is. The film brought out a strange kind of amnesiac dullness once it was over. I kept forgetting that I had actually watched the movie. Without mincing words, Trish Sie’s Players is hot trash in the garb of a romantic comedy. 

From its contrived premise to its inane execution, Players feels more like a cringe-inducing chore than an escape into the world of love or laughter. Written by Whit Anderson, Players revolves around Mack (Gina Rodriguez) and her group of friends who concoct ridiculously elaborate schemes, dubbed “plays,” to land hookups. Mack’s gang includes Damon Wayans Jr.’s Adam, Augustus Prew’s Brannagan, and Joel Courtney as Little. Liza Koshy’s Ashley joins later as she starts dating Little after helping them “run a play”.

They also have a rota to decide who gets laid when, and they have seemingly centred their whole friendship on these “plays” that have increasingly doltish names. In fact, the word “play” is used so many times in the film that you can take shots every time someone says it, and you are guaranteed to get blackout drunk within the first 15 minutes of the film. The semantic satiation kicks in later if you choose to go through this sober.

Mack is “one of the boys”. Her lack of female friends as a 30-something writer in New York City is equally flimsy—one moved away, and the other is in rehab, she shrugs. She likes sports and talks freely about giving saucy blowjobs at work parties before screaming out “parameter” (instead of using the word “boundary” like a normal person). All their fun and games escalate when Mack wants a serious relationship with one of her targets, war correspondent Nick Russel (Tom Ellis). The dynamic shifts in a misguided pursuit of genuine affection. While the premise might sound quite okay for a rom-com, on paper at least, the execution is horrific. 

Their relationship is built on lies and manipulation, as Mack and her friends stalk Nick online as well as IRL (in real life). But the film has the audacity to paint Nick as the thoughtless, selfish boyfriend when he cannot socialise with Mack on the one night he is being felicitated by the UN. Nick is also plastered to be this uncaring fellow when he heavily edits a very personal feature piece Mack wrote. This man does not know who Mack is because her lies would put Joe Goldberg to shame. Nonetheless, Mack is the one who walks away from this baffled handsome sod, somehow making him look like the schmuck. 

Players and You may differ in terms of tonality, but Mack (and her gang of little sociopaths) is no different than Joe. Even Griselda isn’t painted with the same streaks of unhinged villainy, and she killed all her four husbands. While rom-coms are often granted some leeway in terms of logic and plausibility, Players comes across as an AI-garbled whatsit cosplaying as a film. And its worst crime? The terrible underutilisation of Marin Hinkle.

Yes, Netflix has given us fairly enjoyable rom-coms in recent years, from Love at First Sight to Set it Up. But it becomes increasingly difficult to sift through the metric tons of garbage to find the better options. Netflix has the biggest budgets for sets, locales, and even VFX, but Players is yet another example of how the streaming giant often skimps on their writing allocations.