The Player: Ante Up – There May be Hope

The Player - Season 1

So episode two of The Player keeps the action and the Ginny conspiracy running while star Philip Winchester continues to spar with Wesley Snipes and intrigue Charity Wakefield.  Aussie actress Daisy Betts, whose character Ginny was “killed” in the show’s pilot, maintains a background presence via photographs and Alex’s remembrance that the body in the morgue was missing a vital bit of tattoo ink.

The series moves into the game proper this week and things have gotten deadlier. A team of bloodthirsty and coldblooded killers are robbing security vans and killing innocents on a wide scale.  Kane is pitted against the “Carnage Crew.”

While the whole Alex grousing about the game may be annoying, the show’s action sequences are impressive and the mix of Wakefield, Winchester and Snipes is a good one. Damon Gupton, the best friend and cop who seemed hell-bent on putting Alex in jail last week, has warmed up a bit. He still has that cold delivery however and this still irritates.

Ante Up proves that high octane is the theme for this action thriller.  After Mr. Johnson shows Kane that he will make things personal for The Player, Alex’s target is an old comrade from his Afghanistan days, surprisingly it appears that the pit boss is also ready to help his reluctant asset.

The show has Alex being tortured, participating in a gun fight at a casino storeroom, another firefight on a main street, and a pretty impressive bit of action on an airplane and then in the air. There cannot be many programs that can boast a bit of “mile high” arial altercation where a parachute is swapped, unwillingly, between the fighters.

Wakefield continues to be the more interesting of the trio but Winchester is starting to become more watchable. The dialogue still feels  a little forced,  but, it is getting tighter and that bit more clever. Snipes, as Johnson, has a brilliant chemistry with both Cassandra/April and with Alex.

The one person who really does not fit in this scenario very well is Detective Cal Brown (Gupton). This may not be the actor’s fault, as it seems the writers spent too much time  trying to make Snipes, Winchester and Wakefield more interesting and witty. This has left Damon a little underwritten and oddly disjointed.  Seemingly way too eager to arrest his best buddy in the pilot and too understanding in this episode.

In terms of villains, Joseph Sikora, as Dominic McCall,  was perhaps a bit of a “one-note” baddy but his criminality was done with a sort of twisted panache and not a little psychosis.  The “double-down” second bet orchestrated by a clever Cassandra was a nice shift and gives us the idea that boyfriend Nick may be on the way out.

The Player - Season 1

The underlying plot thread of Alex believing that Ginny is still alive, by submitting hair samples for a DNA match become more interesting after being show that the body on the table was, supposedly, her. However…Johnson showing up at the end of the episode stating support and agreeing the Ginny is still alive gives Alex the idea that there is some hope she is not dead.

Just as this second episode of The Player gives us some hope that this action thriller is going to keep entertaining with a heavy dose of adrenaline and a improving plot line. The series airs Thursdays on NBC, tune in and see if they can beat that mid-air fisticuff scene in this episode.


‘The Player’ NBC Vegas Gamble with Wesley Snipes Thriller

The Player - Season Pilot

There is an almost inexplicable allure to setting television shows in Las Vegas that apparently began with the Robert Ulrich 1978-1981 hit Vega$. The Player is the latest to be set in the Vegas desert capital of gambling. Wesley Snipes is the network’s hole card in this thriller that feels a little like a small screen variation of the 2009 film The Tournament

The last television show set in the mecca of gambling was the Dennis Quaid/Michael Chiklis vehicle Las Vegas. That series did not fare well, quite possibly because it was set in “the good old days” of the town.

Now we have The Player which pits actor Philip Winchester against the “crook of the week” in a game run by Wesley Snipes’ character and aided by gorgeous Brit actress Charity Wakefield.

In the pilot, Alex Kane (Winchester) works in Vegas as a security advisor. The former FBI agent and terrorist specialist is enjoying his life with “almost” ex-wife Ginny (Aussie actress Daisy Betts) when someone enters Kane’s apartment shoots at him and murder’s Ginny.

The Player - Pilot
Cassandra King aka Charity Wakefield

He is then propelled into a world of the ultra-rich who bet on the outcome of criminal activities. Snipes is Mr. Johnson the pitt boss, Wakefield is Cassandra the dealer and Kane is the Player. After his former cop friend Det. Cal Brown (played by Damon Gupton) arrests him for his ex-wife’s murder, Kane is recruited by Johnson and Cassandra to their game.

The premise of predicting crime and betting against the outcome is interesting and could work, whether this will do so on a weekly basis remains to be seen. In the pilot the first challenge presented to Alex is to save a mother from dying during a kidnapping that he must also stop. The rest of the episode moves between Kane’s interaction with Snipes and Wakefield and trying to save the girl who is kidnapped.

With internals filmed in Los Angeles and all the Vegas externals being second unit footage, there are, as pointed out by a local publication, inconsistencies with geography of the town. Because of this the new series feels like a bit of a cheat. At least with Vega$ and the short-lived Quaid/Chiklis double-act, most of the show was actually filmed on the strip.

Winchester, who is a more than capable actor, fills a role that seems it should have been filled by Sean Bean. The actor who plays Kane does indeed feel like a US version of Bean, who already plays a “kick-a**” agent of sorts in TNT’s Legends.

NBC have opted to have Wesley Snipes be the show’s main draw. Unfortunately there is not enough Snipes to make the ploy work too successfully. Still, with a minimal amount of effort the Blade star does well in his scenes but alas lacks the spark he normally exudes. The former star seems to be a bit diminished on the small screen. Perhaps this will change over time.

The Player - Season Pilot
Snipes aka The Pit Boss.

Damon Gupton is Detective Brown, Kane’s former friend. This one character does not fit well in this verse. This friend seems all to ready to turn on his pal and even after his “innocence” is proven remains hostile toward Kane. Gupton is a performer whose delivery always feels flat and seemingly forced. It is an annoyance in this show which boasts some impressive performances.

Interestingly, the performer who “owns” the pilot is Charity Wakefield. Her dialogue with Winchester, where she replays his career as a sort of “This is Your Life” monologue is sheer brilliance. The delivery of her line “Against direct orders from the United States government, you shot Ibrahim Chechik in the face” is just perfect and tells the viewer volumes about her character.

If this series survives, it will be less because of Snipes and more because of Wakefield. Her performance far exceeds anyone else in the pilot. Clearly a case of casting being almost sublimely perfect. Philip Winchester may be the “star” and Wesley Snipes the “name” but it is that English actress from Tunbridge Wells who will sell this series.

The Player airs Thursdays on NBC. Fans of Snipes will tune in to see what he will do, join them for a change of pace. Only time will tell whether this new series will work or not.

The Player - Season Pilot
Damon Gupton a little flat in this one.
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