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'The Player' review: Betting on crime, Vegas style

Philip Winchester, left, as Alex King, and Wesley

Philip Winchester, left, as Alex King, and Wesley Snipes as Johnson in "The Player." Credit: NBC / Gregory Peters

THE SERIES "The Player"

WHEN | WHERE Premieres Thursday night at 10 on NBC/4

WHAT IT'S ABOUT And you thought the 1 percent spent their days stockpiling more money. Actually, they're online, playing games, and we don't mean Solitaire. Turns out they've developed "the greatest database in intelligence history" to predict/thwart crimes. (Yawn, yes, more of fall TV's tiredest trope.) But because that kind of do-gooding is just so dull, the uber-rich spice it up by placing bets on whether the crimes can be stopped in time, by our title dude: a superhero with no superpowers.

That would be Philip Winchester of "Strike Back," here a former assassin drafted back into action by a crafty Wesley Snipes, who runs The Game from his penthouse with Charity Wakefield's British database babe named Cassandra.

Set it all in Las Vegas, spin the wheel and see where the body bags land. Winchester efficiently lays waste to casinos, malls, cars and random humans, against his own will (of course), so he can uncover the overarching conspiracy (of course) behind it all.

MY SAY Sure, Thursday's pilot is junk, but it's pretty, diligent junk, essentially The Whopper of action TV, heaped high with mayhem condiments. Like "24's" Jack Bauer, Winchester's agent has access to all the information in the universe, employing it for good ends through bad means along the way. Unlike "24," both "The Player" and Winchester have a sense of humor about their own absurdity. It helps.


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