Big Screens Big Failure Case Study
Heed this warning: Whatever you do, do not go see Playing God.
Don’t listen to what your friends have to say about it. Avoid Playing God at all costs. Simply put, Playing God is a terrible film that is embarrassing and humiliating for all those involved, especially David Duchovny. His first feature film after his rise to television and Internet fame as Special Agent Fox Mulder of The X-Files, Playing God was supposed to launch the actor’s big screen career.
Instead, Playing God is such a failure that it is sure to turn into what Point Break was for Keanu Reeves: a showcase of his worst acting surrounded by an even worse plot and characters.
Duchovny plays Eugene Sands, a L. A. junkie who used to be a L. A. surgeon until his medical license was revoked for performing surgery while under the influence of amphetamines. He crosses paths with Raymond Blossom, played by Timothy Hutton (Ordinary People, Beautiful Girls), a ruthless criminal who hires Eugene to treat associates he needs to keep alive, either for information or for personal reasons.
Eugene gets caught up in Raymond’s dangerous dealings and finds himself trapped between his drug use, his desire to practice medicine again, and Raymond, who refuses to leave the good doctor alone. The plot thickens as a pseudo-relationship develops between Eugene and Raymond’s girlfriend Claire, played by Angelina Jolie (Hackers). The premise isn’t even that interesting. Playing God is a terrible movie simply because there’s nothing good about it. The lame voiceovers by Duchovny are almost redundant and the portrayal of Eugene as a MacGuyver-esque doctor was simply absurd.
Saving a guy’s life with an Evian bottle and a wire hanger? Come on.
The movie’s romanticized comparison between doctors and God is idealistic and foolish at best. The movie is also packed with senseless violence, mindless profanity, and way too much blood. The characters are all horribly underdeveloped as well, seemingly to give Duchovny more screen time. Timothy Hutton is okay, but deplorably underused while Angelina Jolie gives the only semi-engaging performance, although the most interesting thing about her are her huge lips.
You don’t learn enough about the characters to really care what happens to them. Sadly enough, the worst character in Playing God is played by Duchovny himself.
This isn’t Duchovny’s first foray into the world of film. He starred in several feature films including a lead role in Kalifornia in 1993 with a pre-stardom Brad Pitt, though his fans may tell you his most memorable role was in the soft porn cable series Red Shoe Diaries. But whatever experience he gained from his past television and film work, it doesn’t show in Playing God.
His monotone voice and squinty eyes just don’t work on a ten-foot screen, and although the movie was set up to feature him in the central role, the acting abilities that won him two Golden Globes and an Emmy nomination for The X-Files aren’t stellar enough to carry a feature film. Playing God was really destined to fail from the beginning.
First time director Andy Wilson’s past movie work consisted mostly of assistant camera work on various obscure films, the most recognizable one being Disney‘s Man of the House starring Chevy Chase and Jonathan Taylor Thomas.
The only other writing credit screenwriter Mark Haskell Smith has to his name is a Playboy video. The excruciatingly poor writing and directing in the face of the nationwide hype proves that the film is attempting to ride on Duchovny’s fame alone. Darling as Duchovny may be on The X-Files, he is indeed a morose loser in Playing God, and is not enough to save this disaster of a film.
So instead of seeing Playing God this weekend, go to the video store and rent the new X-Files videos which were released last week. Forget Eugene Sands ever existed. Long live Fox Mulder.