The Players serves a collection of shorts in which men behave badly, but that’s setting a low bar for itself that is unfortunately never exceeded.
This review of The Players (Netflix) is spoiler-free.
In depicting men at their worst, The Players, a new collection of short sketches on Netflix, doesn’t exactly set a high bar for itself. With blatant misogynists in public office, candid so-called “locker room talk” can regularly become national news; with that in mind, the adulterous sex-obsessed men in this collection seem comparatively tame. Then again, it’s always nice to study a subject in its natural habitat.
While The Players has some moments of seriousness, they’re brief. The overall sensibility is jokey, more like sketches than shorts, and even though the characters are deeply, unapologetically sexist, they tend to get their comeuppance or are at least made to look and feel foolish, so that misogyny isn’t shared by the production itself. Unfortunately, though, it’s also pretty shallow and insubstantial, failing to offer much insight or leave a memorable impression.
The shorts all share themes and a couple of characters: A wife suspects her husband of adultery while holidaying in the Maldives; a couple confesses their infidelities; a married man tries (and fails) to get laid at a party; an old couple isn’t as happy as they appear; a man gets found out and tries to trick his wife into believing otherwise, and loose lips sink some ships. The quality is fairly inconsistent but the energy picks up a little as it goes.
Riccardo Scamarcio and Valerio Mastandrea top the billing and make the most of each short’s requirements; it’s really an acting exercise for these two, who relish the opportunity to veer wildly between personas and modes. Seeing the differences in their characters in each short is the primary reason to keep watching – there are others, but they’re not as reliable. There are bits and bobs to like here, and The Players benefits from not becoming preachy and allowing its underlying themes to speak for themselves, even if those themes are nothing new.
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