Similar to the classic horror film genre, the standards for action comedies have significantly decreased. Simply avoiding a major mistake is now seen as sufficient. These films typically follow a traditional formula of appealing to both male and female audiences, featuring attractive leads exchanging witty banter while effortlessly dodging gunfire set to popular music. The premise allows for the actors to showcase both their comedic and physical abilities.
The enchantment that was evident in the 2005 film Mr & Mrs Smith, which has arguably had the most significant and detrimental impact on the genre in the nearly two decades since its release (itself heavily influenced by 1994’s True Lies), has been noticeably lacking in its numerous imitators. Last year’s dreadfully haunting movie Ghosted, starring Chris Evans and Ana de Armas, served as a sort of cautionary tale on what not to do, unintentionally mocking the trend these films have become, in a year with an unprecedented number of them. To start off the new year with yet another film featuring a male-female duo, one of whom is a spy/assassin, may not seem very exciting. However, with many more of these films to come in the next 12 months (such as Jamie Foxx and Cameron Diaz in Back in Action, Ryan Gosling and Emily Blunt in The Fall Guy, and Donald Glover’s Mr & Mrs Smith TV series), it’s important to try and find a silver lining.
In Amazon’s Role Play, the quality is comparable to bronze rather than gold, as it is not as terrible as many films of this genre tend to be. This is mostly due to the saving grace of star power, even though the stars may not be as well-known in the industry. Despite this, their energy drives the film forward, making it a rare sprint in a genre that often settles for a sleepwalk. This is a familiar pattern for Kaley Cuoco, a veteran sitcom actress who gained unexpected success from her recent hit show, The Flight Attendant, and has been striving for that same level of achievement ever since. Her next film, The Man from Toronto starring Kevin Hart, and her most recent show, Based on a True Story from last year, also follow this pattern of blending comedy and thriller elements.
The main character is attempting once more, portraying a mother living in the suburbs who is also secretly a professional killer. She keeps this fact hidden from her husband, played by David Oyelowo. However, her demanding job begins to strain their relationship and after she forgets their anniversary, they decide to inject some excitement by engaging in role play at a hotel in the city. They plan to meet in the lobby, act as strangers, and then continue to a room. But when an interfering stranger, portrayed by Bill Nighy, gets involved, things do not go as planned.
The events that unfold are predictable – a confrontation, a pursuit, and a mysterious group – but lack the unexpected elements that would make it compelling. It’s a decent rendition of this type of film – not particularly funny or confusing like others in its genre – but it fails to capture my attention and I often forgot I was watching a standalone movie. It feels more like a pilot for a TV series and I hope by the end of the season, we will understand the purpose of revisiting this story.
Cuoco’s role in Based on a True Story required her to balance between the silly and the serious, which she struggled with. However, she still manages to carry a heavy load with her performance and has great chemistry with Oyelowo, who fully commits to his role. Unfortunately, the lack of depth and complexity in the script prevents them from fully embodying their characters and becoming believable individuals. While Role Play may not be a complete failure due to the current state of the action comedy genre, it falls short of being a success.
The option to participate in Role Play will be on Amazon Prime starting January 12th.