Reindeer Games

Distributed by: Miramax Films

Reviewed by Melissa Minners


                My friend loves Charlize Theron…can’t get enough of her.  So, for her birthday, I bought her a bunch of Charlize Theron movies.  This weekend, with nothing on television, we decided to watch one – Reindeer Games.

                Reindeer Games stars Ben Affleck as Rudy Duncan, a car thief doing time in prison with two days until his release.  His friend Nick Cassidy (James Frain) is also scheduled to be released after doing time for a manslaughter charge.  Rudy talks about going home to his family, but all Nick can talk about is the woman he’s been corresponding with, Ashley Mercer (Charlize Theron).  Unfortunately, during a fight in the mess hall, Nick takes a shiv meant for Rudy and dies.  Now, Ashley is standing out in the cold, waiting for Nick to meet her at the prison gates.  What does Rudy do?  Take Nick’s place, of course.

                Things start off well and the two get along smashingly, until Ashley starts talking to Rudy about the casino he (Nick) used to work at and how she would like to take a trip to play the tables and the slots.  Rudy is adamant about not going, but the uninvited guests at his and Ashley’s hotel room are not about taking no for an answer.  Rudy soon learns that his “intruders” are actually known by Ashley.  Led by Ashley’s brother Gabriel (Gary Sinise), these guys are planning a robbery of the very casino that Nick used to work at and they want insider information from Rudy.  After a good roughing up to convince Rudy to help, he tries to come clean, telling them that he isn’t Nick, but nobody believes him.

                Worried that Gabriel will kill him, Rudy decides to comply with Gabriel’s request, though he knows nothing about the casino Nick used to work in except what Nick told him about his past.  After a number of attempts to escape his captors, Rudy finds he must go along with Gabriel’s scheme to rob the casino.  Unfortunately, none of the group has ever pulled off a heist before.  Dressed as Santas on Christmas Eve, Gabriel believes that one distraction will aid them in getting to the loot and getting out millionaires, but with Rudy as part of the plan, it could very likely end them up in prison.

                I knew that Reindeer Games hadn’t done well in the box office or with certain critics prior to buying this film, but sometimes films do well after being released on DVD.  Besides, I don’t always agree with every critic’s take on a film.  Not always…but this time…yeesh!  First of all, there is a credibility factor here – there is no way that Gabriel and crew could get away with that much assaultive behavior in public without some police officer noticing or someone calling 911 to tell police what they saw.  The idea of knocking over an Indian casino in Michigan on Christmas Eve seems to be plausible – how many people would be in a casino over the holidays?  And yet, the idea of trying to rob a casino when you’ve never robbed so much as a liquor store?  Not so much.

                I can actually believe the idea of Rudy taking Nick’s place with the girl he was corresponding with, but once he starts coming clean about who he is, I found it hard to understand why nobody believes him no matter how much he protests.  Then I see the end – I won’t give it away for anyone who still wants to see this film, but the ending explains it all in totally incredible clarity.  Incredible meaning not believable at all.  No way that happened.  No way this thing was so elaborately planned out with a bunch of losers who have no idea what they are doing so far in advance.  No way people open their mailboxes in a poor town to a stack of money and don’t think there’s something fishy about it and call the cops.  No way Rudy gets his revenge the way he does.  Just no way.

                While I had hoped to say that Reindeer Games wasn’t a horrible film, even Charlize Theron admitted in an interview in Esquire magazine that Reindeer Games was a horrible movie and the only reason she did it was to work with the director John Frankenheimer.


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