Role Play – Film Review

When married couple David and Emma Brackett attempt to spice up their personal life, things go awry fast as they get caught up in Emma’s secret life as a contract killer. Directed by Thomas Vincent from a screenplay by Seth Owen, Role Play is Vincent’s first foray into Hollywood-adjacent cinema and stars Kaley Cuoco and David Oyelowo in the lead roles.

David and Emma Brackett are a happily married couple with two young children, struggling to keep their sex life active as real life takes over. David is a doting father and devoted husband, stoically supporting Emma through every work call and business trip. While Emma plays the role of an ordinary suburban mother doing her part to support her family as best as she can. When Emma’s latest work trip gets in the way of their anniversary, the pair start looking for new ways to reinvigorate their love life, with David suggesting they try roleplaying as strangers in public, something Emma is secretly very familiar with.

With plans set to meet at a hotel bar with fake names and life stories, David and Emma’s date is suddenly hijacked by Bob (Bill Nighy) who immediately recognises Emma for who she really is – a ruthless killer with ties to one of the largest private contracting companies in the world. After a short gun fight in Bob’s hotel room, Emma emerges the victor but an investigation into his murder inadvertently exposes David to Emma’s secrets and lies. What unfolds is a large-scale cat and mouse game as Emma attempts to protect her family and her marriage.

On the surface, the combination of Cuoco and Oyelowo as romantic leads seems a little questionable; you know how some on-screen couple just make sense like Drew Barrymore and Adam Sandler, or Tom Cruise and Extreme Stunts, but a comedic TV actress like Cuoco partnering with an actor who is best known for portraying Martin Luther King Jr. in Selma wasn’t on my 2024 bingo card. Thankfully, Cuoco and Oyelowo have genuine on-screen chemistry. While it’s not the burning ‘are-they-aren’t-they’ type that sets the internet ablaze, it’s nonetheless undeniable.

Cuoco and Oyelowo look at each other with a platonic affection that plays into the film’s comedic elements and gives the film its heart. Cuoco’s approach to playing a contract killer is refreshingly uncomplicated, with the actress leaning into the more ‘real’ aspects of her character like motherhood, exhaustion, and love for a decent and ordinary man. While Oyelowo is able to play with his comedic cadence, giving David a goofiness that never steps into ridiculousness and balances the film’s more intense theming.

Despite her job, Emma is not a femme fatale, and she doesn’t try to use sex to ensnare her targets. She’s really, for all intents and purposes, a normal woman and Cuoco plays her with a realness that flexes her dramatic chops without sacrificing her comedic abilities. Oyelowo, getting to play in the spaces in between, provides much of the film’s levity and reminds audiences that the premise is supposed to be a little silly.

Role Play moves quickly through its main story points, opting not to waste too much time on the minutiae of Emma and Dave’s daily lives. We get glimpses of Dave at work where he is attempting to uphold the belief that his marriage is thriving, and the snapshots of their home life show that the love between them is genuine, but these moments never move viewers off the tracks for long. Pacing is a delicate balancing act for a movie like this, where the stunts are an important albeit minor character, and story is driven by character; at no point does it feel like there should be more or less of either.

Taking inspiration from spy comedies like True Lies, Mr & Mrs Smith, and 2023’s Ghosted (the cute but somewhat lacklustre AppleTV+ romcom starring Chris Evans and Ana de Armas), Role Play slots itself right in somewhere around the former two. Vincent and Owen certainly aren’t trying to reinvent the wheel with this one, but their approach feels more measured than other genre entries. It doesn’t rely on a slew of a-list cameos (though Bill Nighy makes excellent use of his limited screen time), gruesome visuals, or death-defying stunts.

Role Play is one of the underdogs of the genre, giving viewers a cocktail of beautiful framing, relatable characters, and chuckle-to-yourself laughs that might make you think ‘I could watch this again one day’.

Role Play is available for streaming on Prime Video now.

Sign up to receive weekly updates on our most recent reviews.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *