Role Play: A Lighthearted Thriller with Killer Laughs

Kaley Cuoco and David Oyelowo in a still from Role Play. (Photo: Prime Video)

Premiering on Amazon Prime Video, ‘Role Play’ dares to take the conventional contract killer narrative and infuse it with a refreshing twist—a double life. Kaley Cuoco, known for her comedic prowess, embraces the role of Emma, a deadly assassin leading a seemingly normal suburban life as a wife and mother.

Cuoco’s character, a globetrotting killer with a penchant for danger, is a departure from her previous comedic roles. From navigating the aftermath of a one-night stand turned crime scene in ‘The Flight Attendant’ to teaming up with a serial killer in ‘Based on a True Story,’ Cuoco continues to explore diverse roles. In “Role Play,” she plays Emma, a professional assassin executing international hits with finesse.

Returning to her New Jersey home, Emma grapples with the mundanity of her domestic life, complaining to her unwitting husband, Dave (David Oyelowo), about the dullness of her business trip to Nebraska. As the couple faces the realization that their marriage might be losing its spark, they decide on an unconventional solution—rendezvous in a New York City hotel bar, pretending not to know each other. The stage is set for a blend of marital improv and killer intrigue.

The film takes an unexpected turn when Emma, waiting for her husband alone in a slinky dress and wig, attracts the attention of a dapper older gentleman. What seems like a harmless encounter reveals itself as a pivotal moment, introducing Bill Nighy as a fellow assassin attempting to blackmail Emma. Nighy’s wittily droll performance adds a delightful layer to the film, lifting it momentarily to new heights.

As Emma and Dave become “persons of interest” in a murder investigation, the film loses some of its initial charm. The storyline descends into a series of unexciting shootouts and car chases, failing to match the standards set by action juggernauts like ‘Mission: Impossible’ and ‘John Wick. The film’s descent from black comedy to action-movie tropes is evident, with uninspired direction and a formulaic script.

While Cuoco’s comedic skills shine, and Oyelowo adds a dryly humorous touch to his role, the film struggles to maintain its early buoyancy and begins to drag a tad. The gender-flipped spin on the ‘True Lies’ conceit offers amusement but falls short of narrative and character unpredictability. As the film trades tongue-in-cheek lightheartedness for run-of-the-mill action suspense, it becomes a good-enough time, relying on sheer amiability and the chemistry between the lead actors.

‘Role Play’ manages to balance killer laughs with a lighthearted approach, providing an entertaining diversion despite its shortcomings. The film, attractively produced and clocking in at a concise 101 minutes, leaves viewers with a simple yet poignant message from Dave: “I love you and I love our family, but killing is bad.” It might not break new ground, but it offers a decent watch for those seeking a mix of humor and action in the world of contract killers.

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