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"Scoring Love in the Big City: A Play-by-Play Review of 'Players'" (2024)

New York sportswriter Mack (Gina Rodriguez) has spent years devising successful hook-up "plays" with best friend Adam (Damon Wayans Jr.) and their crew. While it has led to countless one-night stands over the years, following their playbook comes with a strict set of ground rules - chief among them: you can't build a relationship from a play. When Mack unexpectedly falls for her latest target, charming war correspondent Nick (Tom Ellis), she begins to rethink the game entirely. As the lines between work, fun, friendship, and romance begin to blur, Mack must learn what it takes to go from simply scoring to playing for keeps.

Ah, the irresistible allure of rom-coms, where love is always just a quirky misunderstanding away. This week, I dove into Netflix's latest offering, "Players," starring Gina Rodriguez, Damon Wayans Jr., and Tom Ellis. With a blend of humor, a dash of romance, and a sprinkle of New York's sports scene, it promised to be a delightful cocktail. But did it deliver? Let's break it down, shall we?

"Players" introduces us to Mack (Gina Rodriguez), a New York sportswriter with a penchant for devising successful hook-up "plays" alongside her best friend, Adam (Damon Wayans Jr.), and their eclectic crew. Their playbook, filled with ground rules for casual encounters, has been gospel—until Mack falls for the charming Nick (Tom Ellis), a war correspondent with a smile that could disarm even the most cynical of hearts.

The humor in "Players" is its saving grace. With snappy one-liners and Damon Wayans Jr.'s impeccable timing, the film scores laughs even when it's playing it safe. Rodriguez and Ellis share a chemistry that's believable and sweet, capturing the essence of rom-com magic we've come to know and sometimes guiltily adore.

However, it wasn't all roses and laughter. The film's dive into the Hollywood formula of addressing toxic masculinity, while well-intentioned, felt a tad forced. And yes, the question lingers: Why does Hollywood believe swapping genders in traditionally male roles will always strike the same chord with audiences? Perhaps it's time for a new playbook, one that surprises and delights rather than treads the beaten path.

A delightful easter egg is the cameo by Gina Rodriguez's real-life husband, Joe LoCicero, as the bartender in the opening scene. And a nod to Gina's new show, "Not Dead Yet," where her character, like Brannagan (Augustus Prew) in "Players," writes obituaries. These tidbits add a layer of charm to the movie, showcasing the thoughtfulness behind casting and character arcs.

In wrapping up, "Players" scores a 6.5/10. It's a film that plays it safe, delivering laughs and romance in equal measure but lacking the depth and originality that could have made it truly memorable.

For those who seek a light-hearted escape, "Players" might just be your next movie night pick. But for the rest of us yearning for a plot twist in the rom-com genre, the search continues.

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