Reading a few negative reviews online for Played, I find myself agreeing with some but feeling overall that the film is both hindered by it’s marketing and a viewing audience that might not be ready for this type of film. That isn’t to take all the blame off of Played, because it certainly has it’s faults. Most of all, the conclusion to the film leaves a lot to be desired – but being a glass half-full kind of guy, I can’t help but at least find Played to be a very interesting and unique film. Being a crime buff doesn’t hurt either, but regardless, Played is a well thought out and unique take on the crime drama showing a different twist to a slightly old hat genre. Played started out without giving me much enthusiasm; our leading man lays bleeding in a room with a dead body outside the door. He calls a "cleaner", played excellently for the five minutes he is in the film by Val Kilmer, the following scenes seem as if they are pulled directly from Reservoir Dogs and maybe a pothead’s version of La Femme Nikita. Starting at what seems at first like the end of the movie, and borrowing from two crime films of the 90’s… not a good way to catch my attention. However, it isn’t until the story unfolds that these scenes seem less like something from Tarantino’s work and more a piece of originality. The part played by Kilmer isn’t as fully fleshed out and it isn’t until we get to hear him ramble on later in the film that the humor of the situation starts to really shine. The problem that comes from having people like Val Kilmer and Gabriel Byrne all over the cover though is that people don’t expect them to be playing in cameos.
The main story revolves around a gangster (Mick Rossi) who is set-up to take the wrap for a job that goes wrong during a heist and his release from prison. Looking for revenge against those who did him wrong, and seeking out others who would pay for the same revenge – he becomes wrapped up in a series of violent crimes in LA; a land far from home. From all the complaints I’ve seen all over the net, people have been expecting a little more than what they receive with all of the big stars. I figured though, it’s a small budget film and being a Brucesploitation fan (Brucesploitation = films of the 70’s either marketed as Bruce Lee films when they were not; or films featuring martial artists who often times barely have any resemblance of Bruce Lee – but are often playing the part of everyone’s favorite martial arts) I know what it’s like to have a cover that promises a completely different film than what you ultimately get. So putting all of that aside, I watched Played like any other independent film just featuring some amazing talent. After a few minutes into the film I immediately figured that the majority of the big stars were going to just have cameo appearances; but surprisingly Vinnie Jones and the late (and GREAT) Bruno Kirby both have pretty important roles. Mick Rossi, the leading man and also the co-writer of the project really impressed me with his performance. I thought he played the part with a cool but not shallow demeanor and helped give his character some credibility. His character has a violent temper at times, can be somewhat cowardly, makes mistakes – he is a very human gangster. Something some people tend to forget when creating their Tony Montanna supermen. Rossi attacks the role with a very down to earth and subtle attitude, and in the end helps to save the film from becoming just an ordinary day at the office in terms of character development.
However, Played does suffer from a conclusion with no real justice or actual… conclusion. It just sort of ends, and I hate that I might have just spoiled it for some people – but what kind of spoiler is it when nothing actually happens? I would like to hear the director or writers talk about this ending and what exactly they were going for, but ultimately it reminds me of a Japanese serial. Films that go on the straight to video market intended to have multiple sequels; so they don’t feel the need to tie up any loose ends until the next film comes along. Sadly however, I don’t think there will be a Played II – so these loose ends will probably remain unanswered. Played however is interesting enough for crime enthusiasts to certainly rent or pick up; but take into account that appearances can be deceiving but I think the ride that goes along with the project makes for an interesting little film regardless. Played is a certainly not without problems, but it is a film with promise and it could be due to the ad-lib nature of all the dialogue of the film; but it’s a refreshing take on the criminal world and could be the start of at least a few great careers.