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  • Katie Bell

Players (2024)

The recipe is this: Barney Stinson's playbook, shared amongst some friends, with a sprinkle of heist vibes and some fun animations. Welcome to Players (2024).

We kick off in a bar, with Mack (Gina Rodriguez) and Brannagan (Augustus Prew), running a play. Of course it is a rip-roaring success and they reel in Martini Blonde (Claudia Maree Mailer) hook, line and sinker. Yes - that is the character's credited name. Mack, Little (Joel Courtney), and Adam (Damon Wayans Jr.) promptly leave the bar, so that Bran can seal the deal. But alas! He promptly messes it up, by forgetting Mack's "play" name, leading Martini Blonde to see right through the entire rouse. I'd be pissed about names too, if I wasn't even given one! In these early moments of the film, not only do we see how these friends execute their plays, but we also get a lot of quick-paced exposition, which tells us that they've been doing this for a decade; Adam and Mack have a history together; and three out of the four work together. The fast dialogue works for the comedy and for the pace of the film's opening.

Pictured: Just a couple of friends who hang out 24/7.

I will say this, it's surprising to me that in 2024 a film can be built around a group of friends, who work together to dupe unsuspecting people into one-night-stands. They've been doing this since they were all in college, and when we meet them at the start of the movie, it's a fine-tuned operation. Considering the amount of internet conjecture that exists around whether or not How I Met Your Mother's Barney is an acceptable or problematic character, it really is a bold choice to create a film where the four leads are actively engaging in the same behaviour. However, at one point in the story, main character Mack basically justifies running the plays as she considers them to be as misleading as dating apps. Okay, fair, I guess? But then at another point, she also says, "You don't run a play on that". In this instance, "that" is referring to Nick (Tom Ellis), which really dehumanises him. So, I'm not really sure where the internet will stand on this one.

Pictured: Mack (Gina Rodriguez) and "that" (Tom Ellis).

I will admit that there is, at times, comedy in the seriousness of the play designs. And by that I mean, the contrast between the characters' serious approach to each play and the silliness inherent in the execution, does sometimes merit laughs. At other times though, they're just objectively problematic. They essentially stalk Nick in shifts, in order to garner enough information for Mack to procure a date. They also do this for an implied prolonged period of time, because they are able to work out that Nick has a date every 7-9 days, and he's only had a few repeats. It's supposed to be comedic stalking? But I just couldn't quite find the humour in a crime...

Pictured: Five stalkers at the park.

Controversy around problematic behaviour aside, there is another significant issue with this film: the love triangle doesn't work all that well. Essentially, it's no secret that Mack and Nick are two fundamentally different people and that their relationship, simply doesn't work. They literally have nothing in common, and almost every interchange between them involves Mack fabricating an interest in something that Nick likes, or Nick expressing that he doesn't like something in the occasional moments when Mack is herself. There's another option for Mack in this film - I thought it was very, very obvious, but I won't spoil it here, just in case. From start to finish, I found myself internally screaming, "Just talk to each other. Communicate. You are 33. The answers are obvious."

Pictured: Lies and deceit.

For a love triangle to hold tension, even though the audience might be set up to prefer one character, usually they can at least identify one or two positives for a relationship with the other. In this film: nope. Nick and Mack are just wrong, and the other relationship felt like a foregone conclusion to me, the whole time, which really removed all semblance of tension from the movie. It wasn't a "Team Edward/Team Jacob" or a "Team Stefan/Team Damon" situation. I honestly think that the love triangle in While You Were Sleeping is probably more compelling. And that one is very problematic. You remember? Sandra Bullock crushes on and pretends to be the fiancé of a coma victim (someone who is obviously very wrong for her...because he's in a coma and obviously can't consent to anything), only to fall for another. But at least in While You Were Sleeping she slowly falls for this other person. It wasn't staring her in the face the entire time. (Side note: I do not condone crushing on coma victims).

Pictured: Lucy and Mr. Wrong. Mack and Mr. Somehow-Even-More-Not-Right.

If you like sports terminology, give this one a watch; there are plenty of analogies referring to baseball, basketball, grid iron and more. In fact, if I knew more about American sports, I probably would have littered this article with terminology, just to get in the spirit. If you aren't a fan of American sports, and you're attracted to 33-year-olds who have sound communication skills - I'd give this one a miss.

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