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Reindeer Games

movie reviewvideo review out of 4

All-Reviews.com Movie Review: Reindeer Games

Starring: Ben Affleck, Charlize Theron
Director: John Frankenheimer
Rated: R
RunTime: 118 Minutes
Release Date: February 2000
Genre: Suspense


*Also starring: Dennis Farina, James Frain, Ashton Kutcher, Gary Sinise, Danny Trejo, Dana Stubblefield, Donal Logue, Clarence Williams III



Review by Walter Frith
1½ stars out of 4

If this person were alive today, the inventor of the gun might be troubled by the lack of use of them at the proper time in 'Reindeer Games'. While there really are no good guys in this film, how many times have we seen the Hollywood cliche of the villains holding someone at gun point while the audience is frustrated that the silly and simple action of pulling the trigger doesn't come at the right time. Even when we don't want to see someone get shot in the picture because he or she is the hero, it still smacks of a lack of credibility. The only time I found this acceptable was in the old 'Batman' t.v. series, where the villains wouldn't or couldn't shoot straight and the dynamic duo was always put into some kind of campy trap from which they always managed to escaped. To roughly quote 1976's 'Network', "No matter how much trouble the hero is in, just look at your watch and you'll know when all will be resolved". By rights, Ben Affleck should have died about five times throughout the course of 'Reindeer Games' and while I'm not giving away the fact as to whether he lives or dies in the film, the keyword for this film is "duh"!

Affleck plays Rudy, a convict on the verge of release where, when released, he will meet with a young woman who will help him get his life back on track, supposedly. He's never met her and she's never met him. They met through letters written. But wait! This is only a smoke screen. Rudy passes himself off as his cell mate, a man who was killed in a prison riot who was supposed to meet this woman. While finding the company of women irresistible after getting released, Rudy gets more than he bargained for when his new main squeeze Ashley (Charlize Theron), has a supposed brother named Gabriel (Gary Sinise) who wants Rudy to help him knock over a casino. It seems that Rudy's cell mate wrote Ashley that he used to work at this casino, run on a native American reservation in Michigan, near Detroit, and Gabriel, thinking this is him, wants instructions on the casino's construction, pattern of security and other tidbits of information that will make the casino heist successful. Of course, Rudy can only bluff his way through the scam since he isn't the right or real person intended for this crime.

The film is so full of plot holes, you could drive a transport truck through its openings and believe me, they try this also! At one point Rudy tries to explain that he isn't the right man and a hand written letter is produced by Gabriel so to establish if this is really the right guy, why didn't they just take a sample of Rudy's hand writing to see if it's the same guy. Rudy also has several chances to contact the police but we see that admitting to the police that he is being held by criminals would be a violation of his parole, therefore landing him back in the slammer. Even if this is beyond his control? Several confrontations between the characters are also laughable and the film is full of smug humour and novice plot twists that don't seem exciting, plausible or even remotely entertaining and something is also wrong when the leading man can't get any support from the audience.

Director John Frankenheimer ('The Manchurian Candidate', 'Birdman of Alcatraz' 'Grand Prix', 'Black Sunday' and more recently 'Ronin', directs this film with his usual look of perplexity. The trouble is, that while crafting his vision for this film, he overlooked the flaws in the screenplay by Ehren Kruger who wrote 1999's 'Arlington Road', a crackling thriller about terrorism and 'Reindeer Games' doesn't even look like it's written by the same guy. Perhaps the desire to be completely different threw Kruger off course and he faltered badly with this film. Several other mishaps that make the film somewhat aloof involve Rudy trying to make an escape from the casino and getting caught in the wilderness. We see that he has a knack for hot wiring cars. There are plenty around in this scene. Why not just hi-jack one and make a run for it. Oh, the irony of it. Geeeeeesh!

Characters played by Dennis Farina, James Frain, Donal Logue, Danny Trejo, Clarence Williams III, and Issac Hayes are given no real focus and some of them have major time on screen and this is only an added and unwanted annoyance. John Frankenheimer has tried his hand at hack second rate pictures before such as '52 Pick-Up', 'The Holcroft Covenant' and 'Year of the Gun' and had little or no success with them. He is a director capable of so much more but falls into the rut of making movies like 'Reindeer Games' and for a man whose been in the business for 50 years, you'd think he'd know better. It isn't evident here. Perhaps a better name for this film would have been 'Silly Games'.

Copyright 2000 Walter Frith

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