Playing for Keeps Review… (a.k.a. my Open Letter to Gerry Butler)

[sigh] I didn’t really want to write this letter. Not only because I had done it once before when The Bounty Hunter came out, but I was quite anticipating Playing For Keeps for a while. I was thrilled when I got and advanced screening invite on the same day as The Hobbit (yay!) right before I left for vacation.

I saw The Hobbit first which I loved, and a few hours later, I went to another cinema to see Playing For Keeps with my girlfriend Becky (aka PrairieGirl). I really wanted to LOVE this movie and I thought the premise had potential. I mean Butler was [seemingly] perfect as a former soccer star (with his Scottish brogue intact), starring as a former player of his beloved Celtics no less. I’ve seen him in a soccer movie before (the based-on-a-true-story Games of Our Lives and also those Soccer Aid Charity Match), so he’s very believable in that role.

Alas, I’d have to agree with the Rotten Tomatoes summary:

Witless, unfocused, and arguably misogynistic, Playing for Keeps is a dispiriting, lowest-common-denominator Hollywood rom-com.


Actually, the weekend I checked the RT score, it was at a woeful 0% and you know what, I really can’t disagree with that. It’s truly one of the WORST movies I’ve ever come across and to add to the sting, GB didn’t just star in this movie, he also produced this stinker (yikes!!). In the trailer post, I had hoped that it would at least be a feel-good dramedy this Winter, alas, it barely even give us that! It’s even more discombobulating that actors like Catherine Zeta-Jones, Uma Thurman, Dennis Quaid, and the affable Judy Greer agreed to do such an embarrassingly-thankless roles. Forget one-dimensional, yes there’s that, but mostly, their characters are just bizarre, disturbing and cringe-worthy!

I’d like to recall my letter to him I wrote in March of 2010, clearly he did NOT read it…

Please don’t waste your talent on sub-par scripts, especially those that require you to be a neanderthal/ chauvinistic/ boorish/ obnoxious (and in the case of The Ugly Truth and The Bounty Hunter, all of the above). I’m inclined to say ‘get off the rom-com’ trail, but to be fair, I quite enjoyed P.S. I Love You and your ‘Gerry’ character is both charming and sexy, a perfect combination of being manly and hopelessly-romantic at the same time. What I do want to say is, stay away from bad scripts! It doesn’t matter what genre, a bad script is a bad script, and it’s just not going to help your career.

Well, suffice to say I just can’t be a GB fan anymore. Consider this my goodbye letter Mr. Butler…

Dear Gerry,

I can’t believe it’s been nearly an entire decade since I saw you in The Phantom of the Opera. It still remains one of my favorite musicals and my favorite roles you’ve done to this day. It’s a testament of the quality of your role choices lately that when I was about to update my list of Favorite GB roles for your birthday, I was quite stumped. So I kept my original list which includes one of your finest performance to date, that is in Dear Frankie, as I didn’t really think your recent performances in the past two years wowed me enough to replace any of them on that list.

It’s quite astounding that the movie itself could actually be worse than this poster!

Now, let me just speak for a moment of my monumental disappointment with your recent dramedy Playing For Keeps. Well, I was expecting some drama and comedy but got neither! Let me start with your performance. I don’t know if you’re trying to be understated and cool, but it came across as lethargic to me. Yes I get it, your character is down-on-his-luck as George had squandered his good fortune as a soccer star and now he could barely able to pay rent as he dreamed on being a sportscaster. George had good intentions, wanting to reconnect with his  young son, and preferably rekindle his romance with his ex-wife. It’s all [potentially] heartwarming stuff, except that the relationship with his oh-so-adorable kid was hugely overshadowed by all that creepy soccer moms lusting over him. There’s nothing fun or amusing in any of George’s encounters with any of these women, and it didn’t help that George (nor you playing the role) seemed to have much fun doing the scenes either. Don’t even get me started with the predictable ending, which you could’ve surmised from the trailer. Now, there have been some movies that I still appreciate despite the predictability factor because the journey was worthwhile, but in this case of PFK, the journey was so excruciating that it was like being kicked whilst you’re down!

I must’ve gained an extra wrinkle on my face from cringing so much during the entire movie! There’s not even a moment of sincerity I could find, or even to relate to, the whole time I kept wondering just what the heck was Gabriel Muccino trying to do with this movie, what Robbie Fox was trying to say with this script, and most of all, how did this kind of movie ever got greenlit?? There’s no depth whatsoever in any of the characters, not even George himself on whom the whole story hinges on. Poorly-conceived plot is just putting it mildly, I think the only word that came to mind about PFK is ill-advised. It’s everything that’s wrong about Hollywood’s rom-coms… and sadly Gerry, you’ve been in more than your fair share in them. I mean heck, even Matthew McConaughey had been off the rom-com trails and has since garnered some kudos for his recent performances.

Going back to those favorite roles once again, three of the movies I listed (Dear Frankie, BBC’s The Jury and PS I Love You), and I should also mention your excellent performance Coriolanus, you had a supporting role in them. You didn’t carry the movie but yet your presence was a highlight. It made me think that perhaps you should take a well-deserved break and take a good long look at your career so far. It might be a good idea to seek out supporting roles (no I’m not talking about a stint in something so far-off like Movie 43), I’m talking about a small but important supporting roles in a quality project. It’d be nice if it’s with an acclaimed director, but so long as it’s got a strong script, that’s all that matters. Forget the pay check, I’m guessing you’ve made enough to last a couple of centuries. If you truly care about acting, don’t you want to be remembered for the craft of your work? Perhaps your entourage/groupies tell you that you’re a star and you must always play the lead. Well, as your [former] fan, let me tell you that it’s far more gratifying to see an actor in a good performance in a brief screen time than seeing him/her in an awful one scene after scene.

As I said in your Birthday post, I still think you’re a talented and capable actor. I just can’t fathom your role choices, especially now that you actually have the opportunity to seek out good ones with your own production company. Please don’t let the disappointment of the marketing of Machine Gun Preacher give you an excuse to forgo strong characters. Granted not everybody loved the film, but you did your best with the role and the story of Sam Childers was inspiring, so I’m glad you did that film and I was happy to recommend it. I could even enjoy a so-so movie like Chasing Mavericks because at least I could see the value of the story and I appreciate the dedication you did for the role, even to the point of almost dying in a surfing accident. Roles like George on the other hand, just left a bitter taste in my mouth.

Pardon my harsh letter but I feel that things need to be said for my own sake, as I don’t think you’d care to read it and your still-ardent fans probably would just brush me off. I do hope that your recent flops would be an eye-opener for you and hopefully you have the humility to take a look at what you have become. Everyone needs a ‘wake up call’ once in a while and perhaps you’ve been hitting the snooze button for far too long.

Best Wishes,

ruth m.

Well, it feels good to get it off my chest. Don’t cry for Gerry Butler, folks, I’m sure he’s still got a legion of fans ready to defend him 😀

So that’s one crush I’m saying good bye to after all these years. Whilst we’re on the topic, which of your movie crush disappointed you this past year?

77 thoughts on “Playing for Keeps Review… (a.k.a. my Open Letter to Gerry Butler)

  1. Yeah, who ever is GB’s agent needs to be let go cause if these picks were theirs, that’s plenty of justification alone. If these were Butler’s, he’s guilty of skating on his looks (and past work). Not good. Hopefully, he’s not in need of paychecks either. Let’s not pull any Nicholas Cage moves at this point, shall we? Good recommendations and thoughts, Ruth.

    1. I didn’t mention about his agent/manager as I figure he’s at a point where he could pick his own roles. Plus you’d think he’d READ the scripts first?? I don’t know how anyone saw a script like PFK and say, oooh this sounds absolutely wonderful! If they did, then they’re kidding themselves!

      Btw, did you happen to see it Michael? If not, well I wouldn’t recommend it!

  2. Ouch!!! Well, it looks like Gerry has finally bitten the dust. Such a shame but I can’t argue with you here Ruth. Granted, Coriolanus and Machine Gun Preacher were good films and roles for him but he’s been dining out for too long on a reputation that, quite frankly, hasn’t been as good as he thinks it is. Sorry to see you fail in Ruth’s fandom Gerry but I’ll buy you a pint when I see you down the pub 😉

    1. Yeah, he really needs to wake up and smell the coffee, y’know. It’s as if he picked these roles whilst drunk, but he can’t blame it on the drink as he claimed to have been sober in years!

      Ahah, well hopefully you can talk some sense into him, Mark! Maybe he’ll hear it from a fellow Scot 😀 Maybe have him talk to Robert Carlyle for some acting lesson and lesson on humility!

      1. Yeah, Carlyle could certainly teach him a few lessons on humility and not to sell yourself out. I guess I’ll never get to buy that pint for Gerry if he’s sober these days but I’ll buy him an Irn-Bru instead (that’s the Scottish national soft drink by the way) Apparently, Scotland is the only country in the world where Coca-Cola can’t corner the Market in soft-drinks. 😉

        1. Irn-Bru? What an interesting name, I’ve never even heard of it. Yeah, buy him that instead, that’ll soften the blow, ahah. He really needs people who could talk some sense into him if he still wants to be relevant in the movie business.

    1. Hey Vince! Well I think all the casting for The Hobbit is all filled up, ha..ha.. He has a lot of begging to do to people like Chris Nolan, Scorsese, etc. I wonder why he hasn’t worked with any big directors like that, I mean HE should be asking that question to himself.

  3. Excellent post Ruth! I commend you on your resolute spirit in matters GB to this point. I say based on his recent roles you have definitely given him a fair shake

    1. Thanks Iba. Ahah, well I wish HE had been resolute in matters of acting and choosing roles. I was prepared to defend even his most critically-panned films if I believed in it, not the case with PFK 😦

  4. Ted S.

    LOL, I couldn’t help but laughed out loud after reading your letter Ruth. I think GB either needs to fire his agents or wake up like you said and stop appearing in these awful rom-coms. Pretty soon he’ll be doing direct to video movies like Nic Cage.

    Well I do have a man crush on Clive Owen and I hope he’ll pick a good script in his next project or he’ll be doing many direct to video movies for the rest of his career.

    I think Amy Adams also needs to start looking for better scripts or she’ll never be the lead actress Hollywood hope she could be.

    1. Yeah, I think he’s getting almost as bad as Nic Cage and for what?? Nic had those debt issues, what’s GB’s excuse??

      I agree on Clive. Whatever happen to him? I did see him in that HBO movie with Nicole Kidman, but he needs to have a GOOD film soon! I didn’t think Amy Adams has any problems, I mean she was in The Master and will be in 2013 blockbuster Man of Steel!

      1. Ted S.

        Lol, oops! I meant my crush Rachel McAdams not Amy Adams, Amy’s doing fine. Ha ha.

        I’ve been a fan of Clive Owen for a long time, seen most of his work, even the bad ones. But he needs to find a good script and work with a good director. His worst film has to be Shoot’em Up. The film came out after Casino Royale and I thought to myself, he didn’t want to play Bond yet he appeared in this piece of crap film!?

        1. Oh I see, yeah I think Rachel is very talented but she’s not an A-lister yet.

          Owen is awesome, but yeah I agree Shoot ’em Up is absolutely awful!! It’s a role better suited for Jason Statham who can’t act. Ahah yeah, even the worst Bond flick is better than that movie. Let’s hope he gets a jumpstart in his career. Maybe he and GB should star in a very good action film, they should contact Chan-wook Park, ahah.

          1. Ted S.

            You know what, that’s not a bad idea. In fact I think Butler could play the villain in that new Park Chan-Wook’s western, the one I sent you the script review. And Owen can be one of the leads, as long as they can get an A-lister for the main lead, the movie will happen. Also, Django Unchained is doing well at the box office, so we might see that film get a green light fast.

  5. Oh, how sad. I am inclined to agree with you, though, and I haven’t seen any of his more recent work.

    I have to say that I’ve become a little disappointed in RDJ lately … he seems to be nothing but a sequel machine these days, and even though I LOVE the character of Tony Stark, he’s just such a better actor than that. 😦

    1. Y’know what’s funny, I’m actually not terribly sad, in fact it felt liberating, ahah. I mean I will treasure the moment I met him at TIFF but I just think he needs to save his career if he wants to remain relevant.

      I think RDJ is just enjoying his kaching-kaching moment now. I do hope he’d do a non-superhero role again, something so utterly different from Tony Stark. I mean that man is so darn talented!

  6. An era ends! 2013 will be known as post Butler time on Flixchatter from now! Got to say that from the trailer playing for keeps looks like something I actually could enjoy though.

    Now I just got to come up with something else to mock you with in the commentary fields. Hahaha

    1. Ahah yeah, I guess it’s kind of like the end of an era for me. People always associate me w/ GB, even at the New Year’s eve party people kept teasing me and I finally had to say, I’m no longer a fan, ahah.

      He..he.. I’ll find another crush soon enough, though I don’t know if it’ll be as um, intense as my crushing on GB.

  7. Oh Ruth, I have been patiently waiting for your response to this movie especially in light of your anticipation. The horrific reviews shooed me away but I know what it’s like to hold out hope for a favorite. I guess you’ll have to move too another favorite. Someone like… I dunno… Jeremy Renner? 😉

    1. For once I agree with the critics. It really was horrid Keith, save your money.

      Ahahaha, sooo funny that you recommend Renner. I thought everyone knows I don’t care for him. I even mentioned that in my 2012 recap list under the disappointment of Bourne Legacy. Sorry I think I’ll still stick to the Brits… there are still plenty of crushes to go around 😀

    1. I think it’s possible that one could loathe a movie so much that you loathe the actors, too. The thing that made me say goodbye is that GB actually produced the movie, so he’s responsible for that stinker. I’m still scratching my head how those actresses and Dennis Quaid agreed to do it, did he put a gun to their heads??

  8. sanclementejedi

    Ruth, is it simply random coincidence that GB started making awful film choices once he started hanging out with Jennifer Aniston. It’s my hypothesis that she is an evil succubus and tried to steal his talent. 🙂

    1. Ahah, and here I thought all she wanted was to bear his illegitimate child 😀

      I think it was Katherine Heigl who wanted to ‘steal’ his talent, I wonder what she’ll do with that.

  9. Sorry to hear this disappointed you. As for me, i wasn’t happy to see Union star in Think like a Man(Seriously, any movie based on a self-help group is a no-no to me) but considering how little roles there are for black women in hollywood that can be forgiven

    1. Are you referring to Gabrielle Union? I thought Think Like A Man was good? I thought the premise was promising. You’re right thought, it’s a shame there isn’t enough roles for black women. I mean I saw Angela Bassett in a thankless role in This Means War and I was like, come on!!

      1. Yea. Suppose i should have been clearer on that. And i’ve been avoiding Think like a Man on principle( the whole based on a self-help book thing just really turned me off), but i do remember it got decent reviews so perhaps i should give it a rent.

    1. Ahah, well I’m glad it managed to entertain you somewhat Fogs. Hey, the male Katherine Heigl sounds right. I mean he’s starring with so many talentless actresses pretty soon it’ll rub off on him!

  10. Hi, Ruth:

    Ahhhhh. Parting is such sweet sorrow.
    Some cinematic relationships hit rough patches. While others are just not meant to be.

    And, for the most part I agree with you regarding Mr. Butler. As well as Fog’s “Katherine Heigl”
    comparison. Though not exactly a death knell. Mr.Butler is probably going to be on the sidelines for awhile. Gathering up credibility and finances lost through backing a far less than stellar project.

    1. Hello Jack. I don’t know if this will be a rough patch or farewell for good. We shall see I guess, though his next movie probably wouldn’t prove his worth, ahah.

      I do think he NEEDS to be in the sidelines. It’s not his finances that needs desperate help, it’s his reputation.

    1. Oh sorry you lost your avatar from the recent layout theme change. I’m actually going to change the layout again at some point as currently it’s not supporting the Word Ads, so hopefully it’ll get back up then. I LOVE your avatar!

  11. I’ve always tried to be as diplomatic as possible around here about GB but I guess that’s the nail in the coffin ah! He’s just been the go-to-guy for cheap cinematic wrecks for such a long time, it’s disappointing. But Ruth, you have 7 days to retract this letter before it becomes official ahah 😉

    1. Hey no need to be diplomatic about ANYONE here, Cas, honesty is the best policy 😀 I think you sum it up nicely there, cheap cinematic wrecks, ouch, I REALLY hope he’s reading this AND the comments, ahah.

      Nah I won’t even retract this letter. In fact if I could somehow give this to him in person, I would!

  12. It’s sad letting go of celebrity crushes … I feel your pain. 🙂 I’m sorry this movie is such a dud, but on the positive side I loved … LOVED this post. You have a sharp wit.

    1. Why thanks Steph, how very kind. I thought I was blabbering about as I was rather upset with this movie. I guess you could say this post was from the heart, ahah, I’m rarely this negative but I couldn’t help it, this movie is so awful.

  13. Oh, Ruth. This is heartbreaking. My heart is broken. I’m so sorry it had to end this way. As a Malin Akerman fan I’ve had to endure my own share of meh films but I honestly think it’s harder for her because the sad truth is it’s just much harder for females in Hollywood to find decent roles.

    But this was Gerry’s movie, fully. He could have turned it down. He didn’t. His loss.

    1. Don’t be heartbroken over GB Nick, it’s not worth it. Y’know, in regards to Malin being in some duds, I think it’s different. As you said, it’s harder for girls/women to get decent roles and she’s relatively ‘new’ in Hollywood (funny that she and GB’s career was both launched by Zack Snyder!). Plus, GB now has a production company so he’s in a position to choose any role he wants, yet he choose this kind of thing!

    1. I think he’s reached a low point w/ The Ugly Truth and The Bounty Hunter, this one makes it a third strike. Three strikes and you’re out, y’know. Oh I still have Richard Armitage and Henry Cavill as my current crushes 😀

  14. Sorry it came to this, Ruth. After his great performance in Coriolanus (haven’t seen Machine Gun Preacher yet) in 2011, I was hoping he would get back on track in 2012. Sadly, he didn’t, which is a shame. I also think he’s a talented actor, but he HAS to pick better scripts. Hopefully, he’ll do some reflecting and make a comeback like McConaughey.

    1. He was good in Coriolanus and MGP, but I think he got bitter that those two were little-seen, but that doesn’t mean he should forgo reading scripts! I do hope he’ll get back on track. Yeah, if McConaughey could do it, why not him?

  15. PrairieGirl

    Hey Flixy (hope I can still call you by this so apt nickname ;-D), breaking up is so very hard to do… In spite of that, we’ll always have Phantom of the Opera, Dear Frankie, Timeline, Attila, Mrs. Brown (his first film) and Beowulf and Grendel. Of course, look on the bright side – we still have James Purefoy, Rufus Sewell, Richard Armitage, Amr Waked, Timothy Dalton (smile) and (you fill in the blanks!) –––––– –––––. ––––––––– 😉

    1. Yes you can still call me Flixy of course 🙂 Actually it wasn’t too hard surprisingly, it felt liberating NOT to have to defend him anymore, I’m out of ammo anyway. Yes we still have his older movies we DO like and all those gorgeous guys! You even still remember Amr Waked! So have you seen Salmon Fishing in The Yemen yet?

      1. PrairieGirl

        Yep, saw SFITY a couple weeks ago. I liked it a lot, it was nice to see a quirky yet down-to-earth film with good characters and interesting story. And, of course, Amr Waked is VERY striking!

  16. Really enjoyed this Ruth, good stuff! Butler, sorry ‘Gerry’, is pretty low down on my list of decent actors, just because almost everything I see him in his appalling or mediocre at best. Granted, I’ve not seen everything though and I’m sure there is some decent stuff he’s in. But, well, The Bounty Hunter. ‘Nuff said! 🙂

    1. Hi Terry. He’s done a lot of good stuff in the past, in fact his earlier ones before he came to fame were better I think. That’s the thing though, people would only remember him for his silly stuff, yet for some reason he kept doing more! 😦

  17. Poor Gerry…but that’s a really good letter Ruth!
    I hope he will read it and start looking inside him and do some good to himself. It’s sad when a good actor drifted down to such place where it seems like he doesn’t read the script anymore.

    Maybe if he does something great, you will like him again…can that be possible, Ruth?

    As for the question…the answer is IN TIME!!! no other Cillian’s movies is worst than that one for me…but fortunately he was awesome there and I understand why he wanted to play in that movie.

    1. Hi Nov. Oh I might like him again if he somehow reinvent himself or simply be more selective. I just don’t have a rose-colored glasses anymore, y’know. I can’t like anyone enough to endure such movies, ahah, no matter how good looking that actor is!

      Well in the case of In Time, at least Cillian actually made it bearable! With PFK, there’s really NO redeeming quality whatsoever.

      1. bearable for the first time only…I still can’t watch it for the second time 😦

        Does Gerry have another project in the future that you aware of?

        1. Yeah true, if only Cillian were in the lead role, but we’ve gone over that right? 😉

          GB has that White House movie out in April. I even took that out of my anticipated list, though depending on the reviews I might still watch it. It does have a solid cast, with Aaron Eckhart and Angela Bassett!

  18. This is beautifully written! Gerry should really do something to win back a fan like you!

    My God, that score on RT is just brutal. This really must have been one lousy movie.

    1. Thanks Sati. Ahah well I sure hope he realizes how loyal a lot of of his fans are, there are legions who would watch every single crap he puts out and call it gold.

      It really is lousy. I think it should’ve stayed at ZERO rating to be honest.

  19. Ouch, I didn’t think this day would come, Ruth! But hey, maybe he can have a career revival in ten years like Matthew McConaughey. 🙂

  20. Pingback: Cillian Murphy’s Movies I Am Not Too Keen About « Polychrome Interest

  21. Pingback: Blogathon: 10 Actors I Would See In Just About Anything |

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