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Overall Rating

Awesome: 6.78%
Worth A Look: 11.02%
Just Average50.85%
Pretty Crappy: 12.71%
Sucks: 18.64%

10 reviews, 58 user ratings

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Reindeer Games
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by Rob Gonsalves

"Empty heist thriller."
3 stars

Everyone in 'Reindeer Games' is stupid. They consistently fail to ask simple questions that would clarify everything, and even when a question is asked and answered, they don't listen.

Could the movie have worked as a farcical action noir, where everyone is too focused on the prize -- in this case, a casino heist -- to pause for a moment of common sense? Perhaps. Reindeer Games badly needed a Steve Buscemi figure, a guy who stands on the sidelines and can't believe what he's hearing: "Are you guys nuts? This guy isn't who he says he is! He just said he isn't who he says he is! I say we bag this, go home and watch some porno."

Ben Affleck, likable enough here, is ex-con Rudy Duncan, who has done his five years for grand theft auto and now looks forward to the bus ride back home to his dad, sports on TV, and a steaming mug of hot chocolate. His former cellmate Nick (James Frain), who's just been stabbed in a cafeteria riot, had been talking a lot about a young woman he'd been swapping letters with, and had hoped to meet upon his release. Rudy spots the woman, Ashley (Charlize Theron), waiting for Nick outside the prison; on a whim, he decides to pass himself off as Nick and hook up with her. From there, things get hairy; we discover, among other things, that Ashley is connected to a scuzzy killer named Gabriel (Gary Sinise), who wants Rudy to help him and his gang infiltrate a snowbound casino.

The complication here is that Nick once worked security at this casino, and that Gabriel, who thinks Rudy is Nick, assumes Rudy has inside info on its layout and security weaknesses. This could have been a tangled-web comedy of errors, in which Rudy's first big lie to Ashley mushrooms into a cluster of self-preserving fabrications. But Reindeer Games, directed without much fun or spirit by John Frankenheimer, just plods from one implausible scene to the next, producing not amusement but impatience. We're all too aware that if just one person in the movie used his head, the movie would be over in five minutes; and the longer it goes on, the better that option seems.

Frankenheimer is a wizard; he still stages action cleanly, and there's a nasty little bit of business involving a whiskey-filled water gun. But those expecting the pure-cinema thrills of Ronin (never mind the intricate mind games of The Manchurian Candidate) are bound to feel as if they'd opened a gaudily wrapped Christmas present and found a pair of socks inside. (As to why this yuletide-themed thriller -- with its gun-toting Santas, ironic use of holiday tunes, and hero named Rudy -- is being released in February, your guess is better than mine.)

The busy, undistinguished script (which does have its moments, like a brief scene of hard-bitten henchman Danny Trejo solemnly discussing why there should be two Christmases a year) comes courtesy of Ehren Kruger, fresh from the equally lackluster Scream 3. Kruger showed promise with last year's Arlington Road, a skillful thriller with a lollapalooza ending, but his produced work since then has been full of empty plot twists that invalidate whatever preceded them. The climax of Reindeer Games has a few too many "Yes, you fool, this is what was really happening" speeches. Kruger pulls the rug out from under you just for its own sake.

The casino scenes are brightened by Dennis Farina, seen too briefly as the casino owner; this former cop always carries authentic toughness to the screen -- his eyes tell you he's seen it all -- and he makes the movie look like the callow pulp it is. In a movie like Ronin, full of iconic figures with real weight (Robert De Niro, Jean Reno, Stellan Skarsgaard, etc.), Farina would have fit right in; here, he seems like the only adult in a playpen full of boys with guns. Frankenheimer was right to cast him, but he should have rewritten the script accordingly.

Just a movie about Farina's character, a bitter guy stuck managing a midwestern casino and yearning to go back to Vegas, would be more entertaining than anything in 'Reindeer Games.'

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=3842&reviewer=416
originally posted: 02/01/07 23:14:30
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User Comments

11/27/09 Jeff Wilder Gets the job done. That's all it does. 3 stars
10/22/09 Rachel I really did not enjoy this movie and actually never finished watching it! 2 stars
3/14/09 Qeratk Hi! yYQQsZoI 1 stars
8/29/08 Shaun Wallner This ones ok. 3 stars
2/18/07 Nick Maday I enjoyed the twists to this, but they just seemed to keep coming. 3 stars
2/09/07 Heather I want to see believeable actors and the majority in this film just aren't. Cardboard! 2 stars
1/09/07 David Pollastrini Charlize Theron Looked hot! 4 stars
10/23/05 Jenny Tullwartz MISFIRE! Rudolph would've been all the poorer for joining in these reindeer games! 2 stars
10/23/05 Jenny Tullwartz MISFIRE! Rudolph would\'ve been all the poorer for joining in THESE reindeer games! 2 stars
8/26/05 ES Why does Gary Sinise keep doing this garbage, he's better than that 1 stars
3/13/05 Mr. Mooring Affleck is the WORST actor ever. 1 stars
1/16/05 Jeff Anderson Surprise, I actually liked this film. R.I.P. J. Frankenheimer (1930-2002), you'll be missed 5 stars
11/17/04 Jay Lo Affleck is wooden but Theron carries the film. 2 stars
1/07/04 A F Holy Crap did that suck and I'm from MN 1 stars
10/17/03 Josh Standlee Funny and action-packed. Gary Sinise should have recieved "The Best Villian for 2000" award 4 stars
6/06/03 Francis Implausible is right. Who writes this stuff? 3 stars
3/08/03 Jack Sommersby Energetic, but after a while you just don't give a hoot. 2 stars
10/14/02 Charles Tatum Good twists and turns, but completely odious characters 4 stars
2/25/02 Jenny Tullwartz MISFIRE! Rudolph would've been all the poorer for joining in THESE reindeer games! 2 stars
1/23/02 Andrew Carden Almost Impossible To Enjoy...Almost Unwatchable. 1 stars
12/08/01 Joe Zappa "Reindeer Games" is awesome as Hell!!!!!! 4 stars
8/18/01 Dr. Thompson Ben Affleck bites like a chigger 1 stars
7/21/01 Slicer This is just plain old bullshit, kids. Implausible to the core. 1 stars
6/12/01 *~Danielle*Ophelia~* (formerly KyLe*BrOfLoVsKi) Each film Affleck's in gets progressively worse. I'm gonna smack him, I swear. 1 stars
4/16/01 I love movies r u kiddin'? this movie rocked! 5 stars
4/09/01 Spetters Not good in any way, but strangely entertaining. 3 stars
3/12/01 Paperplate UFO I can't keep a straight face when Afflek tries to look tough. Pure comedy. 1 stars
2/21/01 R.W. Welch Has no real stand-out aspects, just manages to hold your attention. 3 stars
12/10/00 BrittenysPears I'll save you the rental fee. Affleck lives and gives all the money away THIS SUCKED 1 stars
11/26/00 Fred Good movie, especially Ben Affleck and Charlize Theron. 4 stars
11/13/00 Terrie Smith A few good moments here and there but nothing exceptional. 3 stars
10/16/00 Dave Thsi movie had it all!!! Even a naked 10 year old farm boy - wait that was Charlize.. 2 stars
10/01/00 Robin Ben is on the rise!!!!! Go boy! 5 stars
9/17/00 Paul I know this is an "Affleck friendly" site but this movie sux. Theron's acting sucks ass 1 stars
8/24/00 Add A nice throw away popcorn action thiller, doesn't challenge u but has a decent ending 3 stars
8/21/00 Monday Morning Ending twist was way too far fetched. Pretty entertaining overall but leave brain at home. 4 stars
8/21/00 The Bomb 69 good movie, liked the plot twist, the ending with the money was unrealistic though 4 stars
5/31/00 Trina M. Barnard slow start, but picks up. Love the twist 4 stars
4/08/00 Stacy This movie was good! Ben Affleck is so hot. 4 stars
4/03/00 The Ronin Damn Good Movie 5 stars
3/20/00 Laura i enjoyed the twists 4 stars
3/17/00 Lame-Oh not bad, but Fight Club was better 3 stars
3/13/00 Mortis Full of twist, visually excellent, pacing was great, Ben's great, he's actings improvbe big 4 stars
3/12/00 Aurora Great fun! Ben Affleck does a great job! 5 stars
3/12/00 Malbert Cool ending&Ben Affleck keep this movie from being completely horrible 2 stars
3/07/00 Fork Story? Hmm? The characters all thrown together were entertaining. And somehow fun to me. 4 stars
3/03/00 jake Charlize is quite possabily the world's WORST actress!!!! GAWD she sucked donkey balls!!!! 1 stars
2/29/00 PhilmPhreak More holes than a pound of swiss. 3 stars
2/29/00 Ben Ryan Think Ben Affleck was in his element here. Overall good plot, geez, too much fucking snow! 5 stars
2/29/00 NC Lightweight affable Affleck meets over-the-top psycho Sinise via dull babe Theron. Yawn. 1 stars
2/27/00 "Cracka 577" it sucked fat ass 1 stars
2/26/00 TimmyToday This was trying to be a comedy 1 stars
2/26/00 Michelle Excellent movie with an excellent cast! I don't usually like actions, but this one was A+ 5 stars
2/25/00 Kathy Fast paced and entertaining - nice ass 4 stars
2/19/00 Andi C. Good plot..entertaining 3 stars
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  25-Feb-2000 (R)


  05-Oct-2000 (MA)

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