Friday, 23 February 2024

‘Role Play’ formulaic comedic thriller; Crime on Lifetime TV




‘ROLE PLAY’ RATED R

Kaley Cuoco has come a long way since her role of pretty aspiring actress Penny, the apartment-dwelling neighbor befriending a pair of science nerds in the long-running popular series “The Big Bang Theory.”

Just a few years ago Cuoco’s Cassie Bowden was the titular character in the HBO series “The Flight Attendant,” an alcohol-fueled mess who traveled often on long-haul flights which she endured with copious indulgence of airline mini vodka bottles.

This series was an intriguing murder mystery in which Cuoco was anything but the pleasantly sincere “girl next door” as she turned out to be an inebriated libidinous party girl who on one trip wakes up in a Bangkok hotel room next to a dead guy.

Continuing on a path of more daring television fare than an innocuous sitcom about life with socially awkward physicists, Cuoco not only stars but serves as a producer on Amazon Prime’s “Role Play,” in which she has a secret life.

Cuoco’s Emma Brackett is apparently happily married to Dave (David Oyelowo) with two kids in the suburbs of New Jersey. For business, she’s supposedly traveling to exciting places like Nebraska but apparently not engaging in sexual trysts with strangers.

In “Role Play,” Cuoco’s character, much like the one in “The Flight Attendant,” skirts with danger once again, only this time she’s a willing participant in a hazardous position, which comes with the territory of being a professional assassin.

Back home in New Jersey, her unwitting husband is displeased that Emma has forgotten their seventh wedding anniversary, and he can be forgiven for fretting that their marriage might have lost its allure.

To pump a little excitement back into matrimony, Emma and Dave decide a little role-playing would be in order by planning a rendezvous at the bar of a swanky New York hotel, where they will pretend to be strangers before hooking up.

Drinking alone at the bar as a prelude to a make-believe encounter, Emma is approached by an older gentleman who is game for striking up a conversation, while Dave is apparently running late to the party.

The interloper in this situation is Bob Kellerman (Bill Nighy), who has a gift for gab. While his appearance is like that of a traveling salesman, there’s more to Bob than getting in the way of a role-playing occasion.

The encounter in the hotel lounge takes an interesting turn with a few surprises. What will it take for Dave to catch on his wife’s secret identity? An unexpected death exposes a rift in the marriage when both Emma and Dave find themselves “persons of interest” to the police.

Emma might not even be her real name, but the notion that she’s a professional killer leads to inevitable marital complications as Dave is completely bewildered and blindsided.

Things get even more dire for Emma when she has to go to Berlin for a contract, and mysterious handler Gwen Carver (Connie Nielsen) is determined to keep Emma from giving up her career for family.

A mix of comedy and action can work where the secret assassin is the central plot. Take the case of double secrecy in “Mr. and Mrs. Smith” when Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, a couple in a decaying marriage, have been hiding from each other that they are assassins for rival agencies.

Kaley Cuoco and David Oyelowo are not exactly Brangelina, but as far as “Role Play” goes, they acquit themselves decently for a serviceable and formulaic comedic thriller that has enough moments of fun for a streaming production.

CRIME DRAMAS ON LIFETIME CHANNEL

Premiering on February 3RD on the Lifetime Channel, “A Mother’s Intuition” centers on the story of a young sculptor named Toni (Denise Boutte), a pregnant woman mourning the abrupt death of her husband who learns upon the birth of her child that her baby girl was stillborn.

The story takes a bizarre turn when Toni accuses the hospital of swapping her baby. More than paranoia is in play, and though no one believes her, the search for truth results in plenty of twists and suspense.

Based on a true story, “Abducted Off the Street: The Carlesha Gaither Story” chronicles the kidnapping of a Philadelphia nurse’s aide at the hands of a homicidal predator, and reveals how she fought to survive and created a trail that would ultimately lead to her rescue.

Carlesha (Riele Downs) was walking home from a family gathering when she is forced into a car at knifepoint. Determined to endure and outsmart her captor, Carlesha leaves clues behind at every opportunity.

Meanwhile, Carlesha’s mother, Keisha (Kenya Moore), stops at nothing to find her, making an impassioned plea to the media and working alongside a committed detective to rescue her before it’s too late.

The real culprit was a person by the name of Delvin Barnes, a man with an extensive criminal history who pleaded guilty to holding Carlesha hostage for three days. In June 2016, Barnes was sentenced to 35 years in prison.

Tim Riley writes film and television reviews for Lake County News.

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