Kaley Cuoco is ubiquitous – not that her many fans are complaining. Apart from the continuous re-runs of The Big Bang Theory, she’s bouncing along on TV in her latest comedy, Based On A True Story, and now makes a move towards action in Role Play. There’s no mistaking her – pretty, fast-talking, always with an adoring guy in tow and always quickly thinking her way both in and out of tricky situations.

It’s her trademark and she does it well. But is she capable of anything more, stretching into genuinely new territory? On the evidence of Role Play, it’s not looking likely. Here she’s the hard-working wife of David Oyelowo and the travel that goes with her job puts a strain on their previously comfortable marriage. They decide to liven things up by meeting as strangers in a bar and letting things take their course, but the plan goes awry thanks to the mysterious Kellerman (Bill Nighy), who buys them drinks through the night and turning up dead the following morning. Now the couple are murder suspects and Oyelowo starts to discover the truth about his wife’s job: she’s no high-flying business exec, but a professional assassin who’s been leading a double life for years.

So it’s another spouse-with-a-secret-life romp. James Cameron’s 90s classic True Lies spawned plenty of imitators and Role Play is just the latest on the list: undemanding, trying too hard to entertain, and over-relying on the resourcefulness of Cuoco’s familiar character. Curiously, it’s as if director Thomas Vincent realizes that the attempts at humour in the first half of the film fall flat and shifts to something more serious in the latter stages. But the themes of family and motherhood sit awkwardly with what’s gone before, leaving a confused question mark in your mind, as well as a sigh of resignation when the ending hints at a possible sequel.

With his actioner background, including TV’s Bodyguard, Vincent is clearly trying to make what is a slight concept punch above its weight, particularly when it comes to his cast. Cuoco’s popular appeal is a given, and David Oyelowo and Bill Nighy are both there to add some credibility, but it doesn’t wholly pay off. A distinguished dramatic actor – Selma, A United Kingdom – Oyelowo has struggled when it comes to comedy. Remember Gringo? Few do. He’s out of his comfort zone here, ill at ease with a script that doesn’t do him any favours and you can’t avoid the thought that he would be much better at a proper espionage thriller. By way of contrast, Nighy has a ball with what is essentially an extended cameo. He gives the film a much-needed early lift with his pastiche on his familiar public persona, but disappears far too early and is soon forgotten.

As a comedy thriller, Role Play falls short on both fronts. The laughs aren’t more than occasional smiles, while the thrills are in short supply. What could have been a wild, fun ride is sadly closer to pedestrian and, while Cuoco’s fans will enjoy seeing their girl on wise-cracking form, even she can’t save it. If only Bill Nighy had been allowed to stick around …..


Prime Video from January 12th / Kaley Cuoco, David Oyelowo, Bill Nighy, Connie Nielsen / Dir: Thomas Vincent / Amazon Studios / 15

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