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Movie Review

Reindeer Games

MPAA Rating: R for strong violence, language, and sexuality

Reviewed by: Brett Willis
STAFF WRITER

Very Offensive
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Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Adults
Genre:
Action, Crime, Mystery
Length:
1 hr. 45 min.
Year of Release:
2000
USA Release:
_____
Ben Affleck in “Reindeer Games”
Featuring: Ben Affleck, Ashton Kutcher, Charlize Theron, James Frain, Danny Trejo, Gary Sinise, more »
Director: John Frankenheimer
Producer: Dimension Films, Marty Katz Productions, Cary Granat, B. Casey Grant, Mark Indig, Marty Katz, Chris Moore, Andrew Rona, James Sbardellati, Bob Weinstein, Harvey Weinstein
Distributor: Dimension Films

From the advance advertisements, this film looked like it might be an intelligent crime thriller. Not so; it’s a bloody action picture that otherwise holds its audience only by its unexpected plot twists and by a storyline so impossible that it borders on silliness.

Rudy Duncan (Ben Affleck) and his cellmate Nick are both due to be paroled from Iron Mountain (Michigan) prison a few days before Christmas. But during a rigged prison riot, a man apparently seeking revenge against Rudy instead stabs Nick, who intervenes. On release day, Rudy knows that Nick’s penpal girlfriend (Charlize Theron) will be waiting at the gate; so he decides to impersonate Nick and get himself some casual romance (and he’s the HERO of the film). Problem is, the real Nick was once a security guard at a nearby Indian gambling casino; and there’s a small-time crook (Gary Sinise) who needs Nick’s inside information in order to finalize his gang’s plans to stick up the place. Once Rudy has said that he’s Nick, he has to pretend to be Nick to everyone.

Ben Affleck and Charlize Theron in “Reindeer Games”

Profanity is extreme (over 50 uses of f*). Bloody violence is also extreme. There are two scenes of implied sex with brief partial nudity. The false identity and double-crossings don’t stop with Rudy’s ruse as Nick; to avoid spoiling the plot, I’ll say no more on that point. Even the “good guy” character commits a number of crimes and unethical acts (as usual, Hollywood creates a far-out plot situation to make his actions seem more excusable than they ordinarily would be); so we must endure two hours of mindless violence with only half of a hero to cheer for.

I’d call this one a waste of the viewer’s time and a waste of good acting talent. The most enjoyable scenes for me were the landscapes of Upper Michigan (one of my favorite vacation spots), and there were only a few of those. To accept this film on its own terms, the viewer must suspend disbelief to about the same extent as when watching “Alice in Wonderland”.


Viewer Comments
The only good things about this movie were Ben Affleck and the last 2 minutes. It’s like riding the new roller-coaster at a theme park. You stand in line for two hours for 30 seconds of entertainment. Only, I guess, at least, you’re provided a comfy seat to sit on in the theatre. If you’re just compelled to see it, save yourself some agony and at least make it a matinee. There’s no advantage to seeing it on the big screen, so I’d also recommend you consider waiting for the video release. My Ratings: [2/1½]
—JK Perry, age 29
“a waste”… I’m temporarily without transportation. I walked a few miles to my local theater (I’d walk a mile for a reindeer?—sorry) the other day. The only thing that looked like it might be interesting was “Reindeer Games.” I plunked down the matinee price, and went in. Your reviewers comments were right on the money. The movie had a few nice twists, but other than that was a waste. Foul language was excessive, and the story required way too much suspension of belief. Do not waste your time on this movie. I’ve always liked Gary Senise, but this movie seemed to be just an excuse for him to swear. Apart from him, the acting was mediocre and story line worse. Bottom line on this one is wait until it comes out on video and then don’t rent it. My Ratings: [1/1½]
—Mark Carroll, age 46
A better crime film? “Heat”. A better action film? “Ronin” (same director, as it happens) A better “twist” film? “The Usual Suspects.” “Okay, so these guys are gonna rob this Indian casino on Christmas Eve—dressed as Santa Claus!”…maybe it seemed like a good idea on paper. My Ratings: [1½/1½]
—Joe Foster, age 21, non-Christian
3-stars for moviemaking quality? Is that a misprint? Excuse me while I pick my jaw up from off the floor…
—Brian, age 26