Role Play (2024)

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Role Play (2024)

Emma (Kaley Cuoco) leads a double life. She’s got a loving husband, Dave (David Oyelowo), and two beautiful kids, but she also works as a undercover assassin. Her frequent “business trips” lead to distance from her family both emotional and physical forgotten anniversaries and desperate attempts at reconnection. When Emma and Dave decide to spice up their life by meeting in a hotel as strangers for a sexy role play opportunity, an accidental intersection of Emma’s personal and private lives sends them both spinning. As Dave is left at home forced to grapple with this onslaught of new information, Emma kicks rocks, gunning it to Europe to fight for her right to live a normal, safe life with her family.

Role Play” is sometimes a family drama and others an action-comedy; however, it fails to lean into either of these intentions. Seth W. Owens’ script drops us into the middle of the couple’s domestic unrest from the jump, then proceeds to not build any emotional foundation in the film’s opening before lurching forward through plot beats without looking back. It only hangs around its lineup of set pieces long enough to provide enough narrative context for the audience to get through the next scene by the time we’ve digested what just happened we’re on our way towards another series of bullet points. The result is a confused, jittery piece of writing that produces a sprint focused on plot which misses every opportunity to indulge in its content: be it action or comedy or heart.

Role Play” intends itself as fun but doesn’t take any time reveling in those things which would make it such. There are some chuckles along the way mostly from Oyelowo’s Dave whose incredulity and desperation within his circumstances allows for some witty one-liners (such as telling Emma she should “take a class” when she exclaims killing is all she knows how to do) but Cuoco, despite having previously provided proof of her comedic chops (“The Big Bang Theory,” “The Flight Attendant”), falls hollow. Her performance doesn’t land even in scenes of proposed badassery. It’s not for lack of ability (which peaks through in some more emotional scenes), but oftentimes it seems that Cuoco’s performance is simply incongruent with the film she’s in. Outside of one fun, clubby fight scene, the film’s editing is static and doesn’t keep up with the action, making her somersaults and punches look like tai chi. The two leads also lack the chemistry necessary for emotional investment which makes the stakes feel inconsequential and thusly robs the picture of its purpose.

Nor are the relationships crafted to any skillful degree. Nor is the world-building done in any way whatsoever. At first it appears as though Emma’s criminal underworld is vast at any moment she could bump into a “colleague” who’s trying to take her out yet later on we’re given a lengthy exposition dump implying otherwise. This sequence is purposefully vague, only giving one real tidbit of information then winking at you as if you’re somehow capable of inferring the rest. Emma is supposed to be on-the-run fearing for her life against goons from a syndicate around every corner but there’s never any paranoia that capitalizes on this nor any intensity built around these confrontational moments to put meat on their bones.

This film is an action comedy with weak action scenes and few funny moments. It feels like a screen test rather than a finished product. However, the idea of a woman who is willing to do anything for her family should create opportunities for both emotional and physical satisfaction. Unfortunately, this version fails to achieve that because it keeps stopping without reaching its goal again and again.

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