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Frankenheimer's Rosebud...
MovieAddict201616 December 2003
I can imagine the pitch for "Reindeer Games" being thrown at the execs behind the picture...

"Okay, it's about this guy, who's not who he says he is, who everybody thinks he is, who fools these guys who thinks he is, falls in love with this girl who thinks he is, even though he isn't, and they try to pull a heist with his expertise, even though he has none."

Nick (Ben Affleck) has just been released from jail for defending his girlfriend in a fight prior to being thrown into the slammer. Upon his release, a long-time pen pal named Ashley (Charlize Theron) greets him and they immediately hit the sack. However, her brother (Gary Sinise) wants Nick to help them pull a heist on Christmas Eve at a local Indian casino, which is run by a money hungry wannabe (Dennis Farina). Her brother kidnaps Nick, holds a gun to his head and commands him to draw up a sketch of the security points in the casino, since he used to work there and knows all there is to know about the casino. There is one minor detail, however, that may hinder their plan.

Nick is not Nick.

Nick is really a car jacker who overheard his jail cellmate, Nick, reading his letters from a penpal named Ashley aloud. Nick was killed before his release in the jail cafeteria, and so Nick took his identity so that he could meet up with the infamous Ashley he kept hearing about, forming a mental picture of her in his head.

If you stop to take the time and think through all the minor details of the film's plot (especially given the "twist" ending), you'll probably arive upon the conclusion that it's all a bunch of bull. It simply doesn't make sense if you really take the time to think it through.

If you don't put your brain to work, however, you'll find yourself having fun watching director John Frankenheimer's last film. Frankenheimer was a talented director, the man behind such films as "The Manchurian Candidate," "Seconds" and "Ronin." His last feature was one of his most stylish and brutal, fast-paced, funny, and often just fun to sit through.

Gary Sinise ("Forrest Gump," "Ransom") is his usual villainious self, while the real surprise comes from actress Charlize Theron, who switches character a lot through the film, especially towards the end, and is a real beauty and delight to watch. She's the film's high point, and though people criticize the plot, I found "Reindeer Games" mildly inventive with its shifting twists and turns, even if they aren't always so believable.

The film's downfall is its ending, which feels as if the filmmakers got caught up in all their twists and turns and unconsciously wrote themselves into a wall, then suddenly slapped on a cheesy, cliched ending with a sentimental good guy closing scene. It's rushed, silly, and doesn't fit in with the rest of the film.

Irregardless of its uncountable flaws, "Reindeer Games" (or "Deception" as it is called in the UK) is a fun film, John Frankenheimer's final movie. "Reindeer Games" is often linked as Frankenheimer's long-time dream picture, much like Sergio Leone's "Once Upon a Time in America." Like a dying man's final words, perhaps it conveyed some hidden meaning to Frankenheimer. Or, maybe everyone was wrong. Maybe "Reindeer Games" is nothing but another Frankenheimer film, this one not as good as most of his others.

But "Rosebud" didn't mean anything to anyone except Charles Foster Kane. Maybe "Reindeer Games" meant something to John Frankenheimer. However, as anyone who has ever seen "Citizen Kane" probably knows, it's not likely that we'll ever find out what it means, even if we try.

3/5 stars. Enjoyable if you don't put your brain to work.

  • John Ulmer
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Decent, Underrated Heist Flick by the Late Master Frankenheimer
bayardhiler30 August 2016
"Reindeer Games" may not go down as one of the best written or brilliant films ever made (and truth be told be it not for the fact that it was directed by the late, great John Frankenheimer, and starred Ben Affleck or Charlize Theron, it wouldn't have nearly been as noticed on this site as it is), but that doesn't mean it's without its merits. At heart, it's a simple story: prison convict Rudy Duncan (Ben Affleck)and his cell mate Nick Cassidy (James Frain) are two days away from being released around the holidays when Nick is killed in a prison riot. Saddened and distraught, Rudy ends up being released but not without assuming Nick's identity when he steps out of the prison gates to impress the beautiful and hot Ashley (Charlize Theron) that Nick had been writing to and intending to shack up with. Rudy tells himself that it's only until after New Year's but unbeknownst to him, he gets a lot more than he bargained for when Ashley's brother, Gabriel (Gary Sinise with Lt. Dan's hippie hairstyle) and his crew of gun running thugs force him into robbing a Indian casino (disguised as, of all things, a group of Santa Clauses!) because they think him to be the actual Nick Cassidy, who, just happened to have worked for that very casino as a security guard. Gee, what are the odds! From there, it's a race against time as Rudy tries to stay one step ahead of the sadistic Gabriel and some how escape with his life in time for Christmas. But along the way, Rudy will see there are a couple of twists and turns and despite his best efforts, he may spend Christmas in the morgue.

What makes "Reindeer Games" as watchable and decently entertaining as it is would primarily be the direction of the master thrill maker John Frankenheimer. With his eye for the camera, he's able to squeeze the most tension out of any performance or script, no matter how convoluted it might be and under his supervision, the atmosphere is tight, fast spaced, and the story never stalls. It also helps that the movie has decent performances, even from Ben Affleck himself. Though I can't say Ben Affleck is the greatest actor in the world, under the right set of circumstances, he is capable of doing good work, and under Frankenheimer's tutelage, he does pretty decent here. Also noteworthy is Charlize Theron as the seemingly innocent Ashley, Gary Sinise's performance as gun running truck driver turned robber Gabriel, who does a decent job of being the bad guy of the film - even if the character is one dimensional - as well as the fact that there are a couple of note worthy actors playing his henchmen, such as the always dependable Danny Trejo, the underrated but solid Clarence Williams III, and good old natured Donal Logue. Plus, you'll notice a few notable cameos like Isaac Hayes as a fellow convict, a really random one of Ashton Kutcher as a casino patron (huh?), and a small but noteworthy performance of the late Dennis Farina as a sleazy casino manager. "Reindeer Games" may not reinvent the wheel, but with Frankenheimer's direction (his final feature film), some good acting, decent action, and few decent plot twists here and there, it's not a bad way to waste some time. Merry Christmas!
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Very Well Done Action Flick
newfiesailor10 September 2006
This is one of the great actions flicks that is completely underrated on IMDb. Great plot twists, great acting, great actors, great story. This movie kept me enthralled the whole way. It was when Affleck still had his charisma from Good Will Hunting. Charlize Theron dazzles us with her smile and charm and Gary Sinise is sinister as the intimidating "older brother". My only complaint was there were one too many plot twists in the end. Otherwise, settle in for a smooth ride.

My favorite part of this movie are the prison sequences at the start and the final scenes. The prison sequence was very well done and Affleck is immediately identifiable as the likable car jacker. The final scenes are a great touch after the explosions, a nice touch to an enjoyable film. Sinise's fellow gang members are excellent as well, their intimidation tactics and craziness well transmitted to the screen.

See this movie around Christmas time. It may hold some more value.
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Are you game?
Kindo19 January 2000
After being imprisoned for six years on a grand theft auto charge, Rudy Duncan(Ben Affleck) and his cellmate Nick (HILARY AND JACKIE's James Frain) are finally going to be paroled. After hearing endless stories during his incarceration of Nick's romantic correspondence to a woman named Ashley he has never met (CIDER HOUSE RULES's Charlize Theron), Rudy is looking forward to returning to his family and having a fresh cup of hot chocolate. When Nick is killed during a prison riot, Rudy decides to assume Nick's identity upon release from prison and meet up with the unknown woman. Burdened with a base knowledge of Nick's Indian casino employment past, Rudy finds himself in too deep with Ashley's brother Gabriel (Gary Sinise) and is violently forced to cooperate with a casino robbery that Gabriel and his gang have been planning with Nick in mind.

From an original screenplay by Ehren Kruger, REINDEER is very much in the same vein as his last script ARLINGTON ROAD. While much more of an action film than the paranoia drenched ROAD, REINDEER holds it's deceptions very close to it's heart as well. Who can you trust, and for how long? Helmed by esteemed director John Frankenheimer (THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE, RONIN), REINDEER seems keenly aware of it's inane story, yet he keeps pushing the proceedings along briskly, trying to keep this casino heist plot afloat with good actors and a passable script. It's fun just to watch this tale unfold. All the professionals involved know this material isn't CITIZEN KANE, but as action films go nowadays, REINDEER's restraint is it's most endearing aspect. No pop culture references, not too many exploding fireballs, and Frankenheimer keeps the edit count down. REINDEER GAMES is a far more classy film than it's brethren.

It takes some time to get used to Ben Affleck as a tough ex-con. His baby face and peanut brittle voice do little to sell him as an action hero. As REINDEER trudges along, you get used to watching him act tough. It isn't the best performance that's come out of him (I'll save that honor for DOGMA), but Affleck is a likable enough guy and makes Rudy a character you want to see save the day. Imagine an aging lead vocalist for a Black Sabbath cover band and you'll have an idea what Gary Sinse looks like in REINDEER. He always makes a great passionate villain, but this time he takes his appearance one step further and actually looks like a threat. Charlize Theron keeps improving as an actress, but it is her new brunette look and honey smile that one takes away from her performance. She looks lovely in the snow, but not too much presence beyond that. The whole cast is somewhat stuck with Kruger's elementary script, and they all try hard to overcome it. It ends up being their individual charms that make REINDEER come out a winner.

I liked REINDEER GAMES for the throwaway Christmas thriller that it is. Taking advantage of the topical Native American casino boom and deliberately waltzing away from many clichés, GAMES is a pleasure to enjoy. We need more of these. ----- 8
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Twisty Movie
lpersons-214 September 2006
If you love movies with a bunch of twists, this is a wonderful movie. Up until the very end you are wondering what/who is what/who... It is a suspense filled movie with some well known actors and actresses, which is why I thought I would watch it. I had never heard of the movie, but was glad I watched it. I like Gary Sinise and he does a good job with his role in this movie. I like seeing the scenery and the casino, not sure if the movie was filmed on location, but it sure looked like it was. If you like fast paced action it is a good movie. If you are looking for something high brow, you may want to pass... It is just a good movie for the sake of a good movie. And I like the ending, and never saw it coming!
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Underrated bit of mean spirited pulpy fun
NateWatchesCoolMovies15 December 2015
I really like John Frankenheimer's Reindeer Games. Which is a turnaround for me, because when I first saw it years ago I wasn't too impressed. Last year I saw it on vacation around the holiday season on TV though, and found myself enjoying it. It's not the greatest movie, and much of it is ludicrous, but it's packs a mean spirited, sleazy punch and keeps up a nice wintry atmosphere to keep you warm on a cold night, whether from the booze or the bullets. The film gets shat on a lot, especially by star Charlize Theron who famously said she only did it to work with Frankenheimer, but I think it's way more fun than people give it credit for. Ben Affleck back in the sordid chapter of bis career, plays a recently paroled convict who's on his way to meet his cell mate Nick's pen pal girlfriend, pretending to be him. Nice guy. She turns out to be a sweetheart in the form of Theron, and things look up for old Ben. Until, however, her volatile, psychotic gangster brother Gabriel (Gary Sinise) shows up with a pack of thugs who have a notion to rob a casino that Nick used to work at, using him as an inside man. Only, he isn't Nick, and has no idea about the casino, forcing him to think on his feet and stall his way through the dangerous predicament. Sinise is a guy I'm usually indifferent too, or bores me, but here he's a wide eyed, brutish lunatic and really has fun with the role. Theron is appropriately sexy and enigmatic, and there's standout work from three tough guy actors I really enjoy, playing Gabriel's henchman, sporting the delightful monikers Pug (Donal Logue), Merlin (Clarence Williams III) and Jumpy (Danny Trejo). They're like the three ill tempered elves to Gabriel's raving Santa, and steal the film. Dennis Farina plays loudmouth, dirtbag casino owner Jack Bangs, James Frain has a silly bit, and there's a demented cameo from Isaac Hayes ("monsters in the gelatin!!"). It's a loud, dumb flick and it knows it, but it also knows how to have a good time in style. Even when the third act erupts in a cascade of increasingly laughable double crosses and perplexing plot turns, it never stops having fun. Nothing says the holidays like jail time, casino robbery, backstabbing sociopaths, Santa suits and shotguns, and a little murder.
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Lots of great xmas fun to be had
dgrozier24 December 2018
If you've got a sense of humour ,you'll like this. Great cast and performanes. Senise mean mugging. Aflecks one liner from hell. Theron manipulating. Awesome xmas flick 8/10
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Decent, but not special
philip_vanderveken15 December 2004
Reindeer Games is about an ex-con who has taken over his cell mate's identity, so he can run of with the other guy's girlfriend when he gets out of jail. Of course not everything goes as planned. Not only does he get the girl, he also gets a lot of trouble, because some other criminals wanted to use his cell mate to rob a casino. He doesn't know anything about the casino, nor about robbing one, but if he doesn't help them, they will shoot him immediately. So he helps them robbing the casino, wearing a Santa costume, because it is Christmas...

The concept is quite good, but of course not very original. In fact: the whole movie is professionally done, but not that special, so don't expect anything innovating or new. However, when you can forget that for a moment you'll have some good fun watching it. Only at the end it really failed, there were just too many explosions who aren't really doing any good to the rest of the story if you ask me.

But no problem, at least it's something different than "The Sound of Music" or "Home Alone" which you'll normally see around Christmas. It offers decent fun, without excelling once, so that's why I give this movie a 6/10.
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Affleck-ted, but Not Fatally
Placemat23 February 2001
John Frankenheimer follows up his great comeback film, "Ronin," with "Reindeer Games," a flawed but efficient thriller that recalls his earlier "52 Pick-Up."

Freshly paroled ex-con Rudy Duncan (Ben Affleck) assumes the identity of his cellmate, Nick (who misses out on his parole when he is taken out during a prison riot), when Rudy falls for Nick's gorgeous pen-pal, Ashley (Charlize Theron). The ruse goes awry when he is also mistaken for Nick by a gang of thugs (headed by Gary Sinise) who recruit him in their planned heist of an Indian casino at which Nick had been employed.

Like "52 Pick-Up," "Reindeer Games" has a central character whose flawed behavior puts him at the mercy of dangerous individuals who conceive a scheme that spins out of control. "52 Pick-Up" was successful because the entire cast, beginning with Roy Scheider as the trapped hero, was equal to the task of bringing the grittiness of the material to the screen. The one significant problem with "Reindeer Games" is the casting of squeaky-clean Affleck as its central character. Through no fault of his own, Affleck looks like a lightweight alongside a supporting cast that includes Sinise, Clarence Williams III, Danny Trejo, and Dennis Farina -- all actors who look like they have lived a little. Affleck cuts a profile similar to that of Scheider, but without the lived-in look that made him convincing as someone who would be able to go toe to toe with his tormentors.

"Reindeer" is helped greatly by the performance of Theron, who, while also young, always has been able to project a more adult presence like the young Kathleen Turner. Credited more for her on- and off-screen glamour, Theron often is underrated as an actress. Here she conveys equal parts sweetness, intelligence, dismay, and ferocity. Of course, she also livens up her sensual scenes. For many actresses, nudity itself is the extent of their sexuality, but Theron generates heat simply by looking comfortable and bringing an unforced quality to the proceedings.

The other major plus is Frankenheimer's direction, which turns an adequate screenplay into a solid thriller. He keeps the story moving and handles the action scenes economically, avoiding the excesses of Michael Bay, Simon West, and other directors of MTV-inspired fireball-fests. As in "Ronin," the action actually stays within the bounds of plausibility, which makes them more involving.
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Would've been better with just a touch of more action
Xophianic27 February 2000
I though REINDEER GAMES was a pretty good movie, especially compared to some other movies of the year 2000 so far, but I think there should have been a little more action than there actually was. There was quite a lot of buildup to the casino robbery, but when it finally got there, not much happened. The ending was very good. Just when you think you've identified all the twists, there's another one right there.

Rudy (Ben Affleck), a car-thief, and his cellmate Nick (James Frain), a guy who killed another man while defending his girlfriend, are both about to be freed from jail when Nick is murdered during a lunch fight. Rudy decides to pretend to be him when his pen-pal-like girlfriend Ashley (Charlize Theron), who never met Nick before, comes to find him. The two really hit it off and things are going well, until Ashley's brother Gabriel (Gary Sinise) finds Rudy and threatens to kill him if he doesn't help them get into and rob a casino, which the real Nick previously worked at.

The plot is actually pretty cool, but it's hard to believe that this bunch of idiot-thieves would really believe that this was the real Nick, even after he told them time after time that he wasn't. There are many great twists at the end which leads to an unpredictable, although somewhat unbelievable, ending. The characters are pretty cool, about half of which turn out to be different from whom you originally thought.

Ben Affleck, new to the action genre, did a pretty good job. After proving himself to be able to play very different parts, like in Dogma, Armageddon and now this, I think he is really going places. Charlize Theron did an OK job as well as the mysterious girlfriend of Nick. Gary Sinise stole the show. I really like this guy. Boy can he act! He's played so many different characters very well. Gary doesn't do as well as the villain as he did in SNAKE EYES or RANSOM, but he still did a very good and believable job.

The main flaw in this movie was the lack of action until the end. The casino robbery itself should've been more action-packed, like it seemed on the commercial. Even in the ending there was more irony and surprise than there was action. But the story and was action was there was still very well done. I'd recommend this movie over many of the movies out now.
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It's entertaining and thrilling.
jiangliqings10 June 2001
*** out of ****

Reindeer Games is a semi-guilty pleasure to be sure. I don't feel it's one of those so-bad-it's-good sort of movies, but the script relies quite a bit on chance and one of the plot twists, though quite fun and unpredictable, is a bit on the implausible side. The likelihood of this situation panning itself out the way it did here isn't very high, but the film works because of John Frankenheimer's direction, the charismatic cast, and the dark humor.

Rudy Duncan (Ben Affleck), a car thief, and his cellmate and best friend Nick Cassidy (James Frain) are two days away from being released from prison. Rudy just wants to return home to his family, while Nick plans on meeting with his pen-pal girlfriend, a beautiful woman named Ashley (Charlize Theron). Unfortunately, a food fight breaks out in the prison cafeteria and Nick is killed, leaving Rudy with a dilemma. When he's released, at the last moment, he decides to pose as Nick to Ashley.

For the first few days, this is Heaven for Rudy. He and Ashley click immediately, and they make love in a motel. However, returning back to the motel from some shopping, he's ambushed and beaten by Ashley's brother, Gabriel (Gary Sinise) and his men. Having read Nick's letters and discovering he'd worked as a security guard at the Tomahawk Casino, he plans to use Rudy (whom he thinks is Nick) to help him rob the casino. Rudy has to now find a way to convince everyone he's Nick and get out of this situation alive.

From the opening scene featuring five dead Santas in the snow, Reindeer Games had me riveted. It's a fine way to open the film, giving the feeling that something disastrous has just occured, and it piqued my interest. Using the flashback method in this film is effective, which may now be considered tiresome in films overall, but it works here.

After The Island of Dr. Moreau, it looked as if though director Frankenheimer's career was almost over; then came Ronin, an action thriller that featured some exciting shootouts and one of the most brilliant car chases ever filmed. Reindeer Games still features Frankenheimer doing a first-rate job. While his direction is far from flawless (he has a pesky insistence to shoot many, many close-ups) he does an excellent job creating suspense and believable action scenes.

Reindeer Games tries to work as both action and suspense, and for the most part, it succeeds. The action is refreshingly not over-the-top in the "how do we top the next stunt" style seen in so many Jerry Bruckheimer or Joel Silver blockbuster films. Frankenheimer injects tension into the gunplay, fistfights, and chases, and these scenes work better than they probably could have in another less talented director's hands.

Ehren Kruger wrote the script, and he puts in a lot of dark humor. There are a lot of funny moments, due mostly to Affleck trying to ad-lib and convince everyone he's actually Nick. Of course, Kruger is also (in)famous for plot twists that just about nobody can predict, but are also wildly improbable. Actually, Reindeer Games' final plot twist is perhaps more likely to occur than the twists in Kruger's other scripts (Scream 3 and Arlington Road). Speaking of that twist, let me just say that you might or might not figure it out almost exactly a minute before it happens. Unlikely or not, there's no denying that last twist is a lot of fun.

Director Frankenheimer and screenwriter Kruger also seem to know what the audience wants from this sort of movie, and they fill it with everything they can, including violent action, the dark humor, the twists and turns, as well as a good dose of sex and nudity, provided mostly by Charlize Theron. The fact that she's a lovely woman doesn't hurt matters at all.

The cast plays a major part in the film's success. Ben Affleck has proven he's one of cinema's most charismatic young actors. His Rudy Duncan is character you can root for the whole way through because Affleck molds him into a likable and energetically funny persona. Gary Sinise chews the scenery big-time as the villain. Let's face it, he's easily one of the best actors around and it's somewhat of a shame to see him play a role like this when he's easily suited for something more complex, but he has so much fun in the role it's hard not to feel his enthusiasm. Charlize Theron doesn't really get a whole lot to work with. She has only a few modes, mostly just relegated to smiling or crying, or looking lost or angry. The supporting cast mostly consists of Gabriel's henchmen, which include Clarence William III, Donal Logue, and Danny Trejo, all of whom deliver okay performances. The only other cast member with signifcant screen time is Dennis Farina, who tries to chew the scenery like Sinise, but isn't half as effective or memorable.

Of course, not everything in the film is effective. The film has a dark tone and atmosphere almost the whole way through, and it creates more unpleasant scenes than are welcome. You also have to wonder about the intelligence of Gabriel and his men; they simply don't have a lot of it. They get fooled by Rudy a little too easily and after a while, it feels like they give him too many chances.

But ultimately, those are my only true gripes with the movie. Reindeer Games hardly takes itself ultra-seriously, and as a result it's a fun ride virtually the whole way through. There's nothing truly innovative or brilliant at work here, and the film's certainly not saying anything deep; it's just for entertainment value, and all the elements work together well to create an enjoyable and fast-paced thriller.
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Great surprising heist story with lots of nifty plot twists and turns. Charlize Theron oozes hot, Ben Affleck is his usual charming self. Great chemistry!
imseeg23 April 2019
One of those heist movies which are really enjoyable to watch again, because the story and the acting are top notch. Ben Affleck is pressured by gangster (Gary Sinise) into robbing a casino he used to work at. Will Ben Affleck find a way out of his predicament, or will he die trying?

Juicy story, funny at moments, suspenseful and surprising at other moments. This heist movie is at least worth 7 stars, because it has got all the ingredients a good heist movie needs. I give it 8 stars though, because it has such good tongue in cheek jokes and a ravishingly hot looking Charlize Theron.

It isnt a masterpiece, but it is one of those movies that stay fresh and enjoyable over the years. Everything a heist fan wants, one can find in Reindeer Games:

1 Lots of suspense. Check.

2 Action packed scenes. Check.

3 Credible acting performances. Check.

4 An original story. Check.

5 Some funny oneliners. Check.

6 Underdog conquers bad guys. Check.

Have some fun with it!
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I actually didn't expect that it would be great but it IS GREAT
omarab-3285326 October 2017
Warning: Spoilers
I personally enjoyed it, maybe it's not a 9/10 but it's really good Final seines are amazing

Very good action thriller kind of movie, it exceeded my expectations

fun and twisty, and I usually know what is the end gonna be like in these kind of movies, but I didn't expect the ending not like that.

Don't have anything else to say, but watch it and you will not be wasting your time at all

Thank for reading
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Much better than I was expecting.
carbuff11 May 2015
Warning: Spoilers
Wow. I'm pleasantly surprised. Put this in to satisfy different tastes in small group--figured it would be acceptable to everyone, but, like vanilla ice cream, pretty much ordinary and forgettable also.

The production values were only on par with TV and the acting was not particularly compelling, but it kept moving forward in unexpected ways and legitimately held everyone's attention. Nobody was disappointed, and while no great film, it's more than watchable.

The ending slightly disappointed me, because that is not quite how I would have handled the money situation, but then I think that's probably because Ben Affleck's character is a better person than I am.
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Winter Blunderland
dfranzen7016 August 2000
Ben Affleck plays Rudy, a con just trying to go straight (are there other kinds in the movies?), waiting for his imminent release. He and his cellmate Nick each have plans of enjoying themselves once they get out of stir. Nick's involves meeting and spending the rest of his life with a woman he's never met, a pen pal named Ashley (Charlize Theron). Ah, but the best-laid plans and all that go horribly awry when Nick is slain a few days before they're both due to be sprung. What a coincidence! Naturally, Rudy pretends to be Nick to Ashley, discovering her to be quite the cutie. You see, he's just gotten out of prison, hasn't been with a woman in years, and.... Well, anyway, he hooks up with the gorgeous Ashley, and all is well - for a few hours, anyway, until Ashley's brother Gabriel (Gary Sinise) shows up and demands Rudy/Nicky help him and his gang - who have never robbed anyone - pull off a heist of a local Indian casino. Of course, Rudy, being Rudy and not Nick, doesn't know a thing about the casino (Nick was a guard there years ago). And he tries to tell Gabriel that. But wouldn't you know it, the creep just won't listen! (Bad guys are like that.)

So your basic plot involves Rudy trying to help/not help these guys with their evil plan, and of course they'll stop at nothing, and of course things go wrong, etc. Oh sure, there are a few plot twists, and some will have you guessing, but my bet is there's going to be a lot in this movie that you've seen before. And if you think the plot's relatively ho-hum, with few surprises, then you're left with the performances of the three main leads.

Ben Affleck is miscast, in my opinion. His character's not terribly likeable (I mean he DOES lie to Charlize Theron, after all), but that's not his fault. Affleck's problem is that he combines arrogance with tough-guy attitude and thinks it makes him multifaceted. No, Ben, it makes you look like a jerk. A better choice for this role might have been Edward Norton (Fight Club). Norton can play tough with foibles, and I don't think Affleck has that ability.

Charlize Theron is outstanding. She delivers a deep, stunning performance that produces new wrinkles with each scene. Much like Barbara Stanwyck in Double Indemnity, Theron is crafty, essaying more in those bewitching eyes than most actors can in an entire soliloquy.

And Gary Sinise? He's Gary Sinise. He's sinister, he's mean-spirited....he's the heavy. He's the bad guy, folks, and Sinise has played this role a few times, so he knows what he's doing. Oh sure, maybe his character is nothing more than a cardboard Bad Guy role, but hey, that's more the fault of the screenwriting than it is of the actor, so I won't blame him. I've seen his talent range, and I know he's got some. (See Of Mice and Men or The Green Mile or Ransom.)

Bottom line - it's not exactly filled with the kind of twists that'll keep you guessing, but it's not too bad. It is, however, a bit of a comedown from the director of The Manchurian Candidate. But fret not, friends - it is, after all, a rental at this point, and it's worth the $3.50 or so.
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Terrible film
cpdickenson24 January 2005
Absolutely ridiculous film - so many twists and turns and all so somebody can construct a ridiculously over-complicated scam to rob a casino when in the end all they really need for the job are enough guns to kill absolutely EVERYBODY. Highlight of the film - Afleck's "disguise" - so that no-one will recognize him he dons a ten gallon hat and a mustache like the edge from U2. Works a treat. Looks just like Afleck wearing a ten gallon hat and a moustache like the Edge. Great for laughs though not meant to be funny I think. Most tedious feature of the film - the gang keeps threatening to kill Afleck and each time he escapes them they meat out some justice on him in the form of violence. However, considering they never do actually kill him it becomes painfully apparent just how empty their threats are - to the point where the viewer no longer has to sit on the edge of his seat but can sit back safe in the knowledge that these criminals will never kill Afleck no matter what he does to them. Why, is never completely clear. They probably just liked the mustache I guess.
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Tis the season
StevePulaski11 November 2013
If John Frankenheimer's Reindeer Games provided me with any sort of advice, it's not to neglect nineties/early-2000's action cinema. During that time, many action films were released, boasting names like Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Steven Seagal and usually served as nothing more than cinematic timekillers or blatant star vehicles for muscular men catering to an audience that beared heavy testosterone levels. From my very limited acquaintance with the genre, it seems the attractiveness of these films was their inanity and their craziness, along with their often far-fetched plot-points, far-from-realistic instances, and technical and aesthetic imperfections that are now widely different from the glossy, overly-polished action filmmaking techniques we're used to today.

But who would've thought the actor to jump on this train would be Ben Affleck and the director to capture this moment be John Frankenheimer? This, unfortunately, marked a sour time in Affleck's career, as nearly every mainstream effort he did seemed to garner nothing but negativity, and was Frankenheimer's final directorial effort before his death in 2002. This isn't necessarily the best film to conclude a career like his on (he directed the original Manchurian Candidate and Seven Days in May). It's quite possible that if I saw this back when it was out, given the director's list of renowned films, I would've hated it. But if there's anything that has changed about me in recent years, I'm beginning to love a silly, completely ridiculous thriller or action film. Preferably, but not restricted to, those starring Ben Affleck.

Reindeer Games takes the cake for being one of the most asinine films I've seen this year in terms of plot, twists, and character motives. Characters possess unrealistic, confused ideas, for being such confident criminals, the storyline in itself is a muddle of complete buffoonery, and don't get me started on the twist ending, which is convoluted and almost too ambitious. I'm aware this sounds like the making of a negative review, but damn, I'd be telling an unforgivable lie if I didn't say I got some weird, B-level entertainment out of Reindeer Games. Here's a little diamond in the rough boasting A-list actors, an intriguing little premise, and several settings there are at the mercy of their actors in terms of the way they're utilized.

Ben Affleck plays Rudy Duncan, a car-thief currently serving time with Nick Cassidy (Nick Frain), his cellmate. Nick has been writing letters to a woman named Ashley, who is the only person that seems to bring Nick any kind of happiness in life, unlike Rudy who has nothing but basic middle class life to look forward to upon his release. A day before Rudy and Nick's release, a prison uprising results in Nick's death, and realizing that Ashley will now be left alone, he decides to assume the identity of Nick in order to at least have some affectionate love, a caring soul, and some great, if violent, sex upon his release.

Arming himself with the knowledge he has gained from Nick's letters to Ashley, Rudy exits prison with the adopted personality of his former cellmate and meets Ashley (Charlize Theron). It turns out, Ashley's brother Gabriel (Gary Sinise) and three of his friends planned to rob the casino Nick used to work at and utilize him as a source for information regarding the building and the whereabouts of the casino's safe. Ashley confesses to Nick (Rudy) that she wrote to him with this in mind, and despite Rudy imploring that he isn't Nick and faked this entire thing to earn the company of Ashley, he is forced to go along with the robbery at hand.

For starters, Gabriel and his thugs are some of the most listless robbers in movie history. They have a vague plan, they have little intelligence on their side, and they are often blocked by their own pitiful ineptitude. This is noticeable immediately after Rudy confesses he is not Nick. They don't believe him but threaten to kill him. Then Rudy says he is Nick. Then he isn't Nick. This goes back and forth for about five minutes in a confusing manner, so that we can't even be truly certain how the robbers plan to justify that he is Nick (or isn't).

But such things like this become in the back of our minds when we see the craziness the film continues to release. Consider what Rudy looks forward to upon getting out of prison (six months of eating nothing but leftovers among other things he states in a corny monologue the film begins with and ends with). But when he agrees to help Gabriel and his band of goons, what does he request? "Some goddamn hot chocolate and some pecan f****** pie." You couldn't find a better line in this film (although Gabriel referring to Rudy's stalling as "reindeer games" comes pretty close).

Besides the film utilizing intriguing settings, such as a large hotel and a spacious casino, with a nice sense of placement and activity, the film can be known for having some at least above average performances, particularly from Gary Sinise. Sinise works as a menacing villain, somewhat reminiscent of a Steve Buscemi kind of character with the straggly hair and the intimidating grimace. Affleck and Theron, for a brief time at least, have solid chemistry, even if their sex is more violence than sensual. Then there's appearances by Isaac Hayes (in a role stranger than the sex-obsessed, dirty-minded chef in a school cafeteria) and Danny Trejo that can guilty bring a smile to someone's face.

Reindeer Games is pure entertainment, briskly-paced, constantly moving, and very active in the suspense department. There are noticeable restraints on the material, given the crudely-strung together subject matter and purely ridiculous plot-points in some cases, but there's fun in the film waiting to be had for an absurdly optimistic viewer looking for a supremely different kind of Christmas picture. Come all ye faithful, I suppose.
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An Entertaining Xmas Heist Movie
seymourblack-13 January 2013
Warning: Spoilers
The action in "Reindeer Games" takes place at Christmastime and this is also probably the best time of the year to watch the movie as it's funny, entertaining and best appreciated at a time when your critical faculties are not at their sharpest!! This slick thriller is action-packed and fast moving but also tense and very violent at times. The plot is complicated by numerous twists, mistaken identities and double-crosses and also a bunch of characters that are often very unpredictable. Characters called Rudy and Nick and a soundtrack full of Christmas songs contribute to the strong Christmas theme which is maintained throughout and the regular humorous moments provide an effective counterpoint to some of the more unsavoury things that happen on screen.

Rudy (Ben Affleck) and Nick (James Frain) are a couple of cell-mates who are serving out their final few days in prison. Nick has, for some time, been corresponding with a young woman called Ashley (Charlize Theron) and tells Rudy how much he's looking forward to meeting up with her when he's released. Rudy replies that he's simply looking forward to going home and enjoying some pecan pie and hot chocolate.

Shortly before he's due to leave prison, Nick gets killed in a mass brawl during which he also saves Rudy's life but as Ashley knows nothing of this, she waits outside the prison for him on the day when he's scheduled to be released. When Rudy leaves the prison and sees the beautiful Ashley, he decides to assume Nick's identity and the two of them then leave for a passionate evening at a nearby motel. Their fun soon comes to an abrupt end, however, when Ashley's psychopathic brother Gabriel (Gary Sinise) and his gang suddenly turn up.

Gabriel knows from reading Nick's correspondence, that he used to work at a casino and now wants to make use of his knowledge of the business to enable him and his gang to rob the place. Rudy tries to explain that he's not Nick but Gabriel won't believe him and Rudy soon realises that even if he convinces Gabriel that he's not Nick, he will probably be shot because, as Rudy, he would be of no value to Gabriel. A series of rapid developments follow and Rudy winds up participating in the casino heist with the rest of the gang who are all dressed in Santa Claus outfits. Further surprises then follow before Rudy's nightmare finally comes to an end.

"Reindeer Games" gets off to a really intriguing start when the dead bodies of a number of Santa Clauses are seen lying in the snow and the story that led up to this situation is then told in flashback. The plot twists that follow produce a number of funny and surprising situations until the story finally concludes in a way which doesn't really bear too much scrutiny.

Ben Affleck is tremendous as the unfortunate Rudy who, after making a bad decision to impersonate Nick, finds himself in more trouble and danger than he could ever have imagined. Charlize Theron is consistently good as the femme fatale who goes through a number of shocking changes and Gary Sinise looks incredibly evil and menacing as the villain of the piece.
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A new low in stupid criminal behavior
rbatty27 August 2000
We checked this one out on video because `the little man' in the San Francisco Chronicle gave it top rating. Not sure what he was smoking that day because this one was truly bad. Not even a pretty good (not great, mind you) performance by Charlize Theron (Cider House Rules) could save this flick.

The premise is bad: Gun-running bad guys decide they want in on the big money, so they decide to turn to armed robbery – their first job an out-of-the-way Indian casino in a remote part of Michigan in the middle of a snowy winter that for some reason has millions of dollars in its vaults when it has trouble attracting customers.

The acting terrible: Ben Affleck proves he can't act – and this pretty boy can't get away with playing an ex-con.

And a new low in incredibly dumb crooks: Gary Sinise snarls through the whole movie, playing a cold-blooded killer who could have put us all out of our misery if he had just put a bullet through Affleck's head in an early scene. Does he really fall for all of the bull that Affleck feeds him?

Don't bother.
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You're sending me into an Indian casino dressed as a Cowboy?
tieman6419 October 2009
Warning: Spoilers
"Reindeer Games" finds Ben Affleck playing an ex-convict who is manoeuvred into robbing a casino by a sultry femme fatale, played by Charlize Theron. It's a lightweight plot, but veteran director John Frankenheimer directs with an assured hand, making good use of close ups, noirish dutch angles and much dark humour.

Most appealing, though, is the film's festive atmosphere. The entire plot unfolds over the Christmas weekend, every scene filled with snow capped scenery, Christmas decorations and hot chocolate. This lends the film a cosy and somewhat funny ambiance, Frankenheimer's rather dark caper contrasting nicely with the homey holiday season.

The film ends with a great sequence in which Affleck, dressed as Santa Claus, walks around town with a big bag of cash, distributing stolen loot amongst the local homes. Prior to this, though, is a silly scene in which the "real bad guy" is "shockingly" revealed to the audience. It's a needless twist that is wholly illogical.

Still, if you overlook this narrative misstep, the film is lots of fun, and makes a good companion piece to "Fargo", "A Simple Plan" and "Bad Santa". Charlize Theron is sexy, Gary Sinese is scary and the usually intolerable Ben Affleck turns in a good performance.

8/10 – Frankenheimer made many excellent films over his long career – "Ronin", "Birdman of Alcatraz", "Manchurian Candidate", "Seven Days in May", "Black Sunday", "Seconds", "52 Pick Up", "The Train", "French Connection 2", "Gypsy Moths" – but largely spent the 90s making TV programs or hack films solely for the cash. "Reindeer Games" was chewed to death by critics, but its unrated cut is a fun crime film with some witty post-Tarantino one liners.

Worth one viewing.
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If this movie could talk, it would say that Budapest is in Turkey.
fedor83 January 2007
Warning: Spoilers
A laughable thriller with a plethora of idiotic twists.

Recently I watched a documentary about Frankenheimer in which he said that he still has a dream of "making the perfect movie", like his favourite, "Citizen Kane". So obviously he went ahead with something like "Reindeer Games". Clearly this must be the "Citizen Kane" of the 21st century everyone's been waiting for. It was just a matter of time. The movie works well on so many levels, it's frightening. We all knew deep down in our hearts that the old geezer still had it in him. Bravo.

First of all, this reminds me a lot of "Long Kiss Goodnight"; plenty of snow, plenty of the Christmas spirit, plenty of idiocy. It's almost macabre how dumb the plot and the plot twists of this movie are. So basically this whole huge, elaborate scheme was designed by Theron and her ex-con boyfriend so that someone else would rob the casino?! Could a heist be any more complicatedly planned?!! This is one of the most far-fetched, laugh-inducing premises since "Dressed To Kill"! There are so many logic problems with it that there is absolutely no point in going into detail. And the logic is just one of the problems the movie has.

The casting: insane, absurd, laughable. Affleck as a prisoner in a jail?? I don't think so. Affleck as an inmate who taunts a big black convict??? I think not. Affleck the tough guy who cracks jokes every time Sinise's gang break a couple of his ribs???? Surely not. Affleck might steal his mommy's chewing-gum but you don't go to jail for that. Theron as a sly, evil, scheming, genial criminal mind?? Maybe in "Citizen Kane's Blood: The Fantasy Continues II". And what's with Sinise with long hair again... He was funny with long hair in "Forrest Gump". Wasn't that enough? A repeated joke is never as funny the second time around. What kind of instructions did they get from Frankenheimer? "Okay, Gary, you will be a smiling, sneering psycho in an action thriller. You, Charlize, you shall be a sniveling broad in a romance movie, and then you'll overact your way as a sinister criminal genius through a dumb Depalmesqian thriller/comedy. And you, Ben, you will play it for laughs: you are in a comedy. You're not funny, but who cares." This is basically the first half of the movie: Affleck cracks joke. Sinise hits him. Theron cries. Sinise asks if he is the real Nick. Affleck lies. Affleck cracks joke. Sinise hits Affleck. Theron sobs. Affleck runs away. Sinise catches Affleck. Sinise asks Affleck if he is the real Nick. Affleck cracks joke. Sinise hits Affleck. Theron cries. Sinise hits Affleck. Affleck cracks joke. Sinise hits Affleck. Affleck cracks joke. Theron cries. Etc. The second half is like this: dumb surprise twist. Another dumb surprise twist. Action. More dumb twists. Dumb action scenes. A twist. Absurd action scenes. Final twist. Affleck gets revenge. Everyone's dead. Affleck is happy. At the end there is even Affleck moralizing in an attempt to make Theron the Evil Bitch feel guilty about everything! And the worst thing is that it succeeds: she actually starts justifying herself to him! They're all like little five year-olds here! This is just too dumb for words.

No doubt that Frankenheimer can make the next "Citizen Kane", but only in his dreams, whenever he is lying next to a swimming pool on a Hollywood party/orgy, all doped up with heroin. Is this movie a comedy, a parody, a thriller or what? None of the above. It is a piece of s***, however. A special movie category suitable only for those rare works of utter crap.

I think Frankenheimer did the right thing by casting Charlize Themoron. She is infamous for saying how much she enjoyed Turkey when she was in its city of Budapest. Such a tiny mind is an ideal match for this dumb movie.
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No Cigar
TedA-228 January 2001
The flaws in this movie are various, though for 2/3's of the movie they can be overlooked. One prime problem is that Afflick is just never convincing as a joint hardened car thief. When he is inside prison, he looks like a nice suburban kid acting like he is in prison. He is almost never convincing in this role.

But ultimately, the problem with this movie is in the number of plot twists that Frankenheimer throws at the audience. Rather than build a plot, all too often when interest begins to lag, Frankenheimer introduces a double cross, a character who was already killed or some such nonsense. Eventually there are just too many turns to sell us on the results.
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Tweekums5 April 2018
Rudy Duncan and Nick Cassidy are cellmates who are both due to be released in a couple of days; Rudy talks of getting out and having a mug of hot chocolate while Nick talks of meeting up with his pen pal girlfriend, Ashley. Then Nick is stabbed and apparently killed during a riot. On his release Rudy goes up to Ashley, who hasn't seen Nick, and takes his cellmate's place. Rudy's luck doesn't last long; it turns out Ashley's psychotic brother, Gabriel, has learnt of her relationship with Nick... the problem is he expects 'Nick' to help him and his gang rob the casino he'd worked in. Rudy knows a few details that Nick had mentioned but not enough to confidently commit the robbery. He will have to think fast if he is to survive; especially after he learns so surprising facts.

This film, retitled 'Deception' here in the UK, opens well with a shot of a number of people in Santa costumes lying dead in the snow before jumping back six days to show us what led up to this scene. There is plenty of solid action, a real sense of danger and more twists than I expected. The story itself is rather far-fetched but as it moves at a decent pace that isn't a huge problem. Ben Affleck is solid as Rudy, Charlize Theron is suitably sexy as Ashley and Gary Sinise is delightfully over-the-top as Gabriel. There are plenty of twists, perhaps a few too many, as it turns out much of what characters and the viewer think is true turns to be a deception. Overall this isn't a must see but it is worth checking out if you are a fan of the genre.
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An entertaining, sometimes clever, action-thriller.
hu67512 October 2010
Rudy (Oscar-Winner:Ben Affleck) is about to be released from prison for being there for five long years for Grand Theft Auto. When his best friend Nick (James Frain) got killed in prison was stabbed by one of the prisoners (Dana Stubblefield). Since his best friend was supposed to meet his gorgeous pen-pal Ashley (Oscar-Winner:Charlize Theron), when Rudy goes out of prison at the same day, Nick was supposed to meet her. Rudy decided out of stupidity to pose as Nick and meeting Ashley. But Rudy doesn't realized that Ashley's criminal minded brother (Gary Sinise) and his gang (Donal Logue, Danny Trejo and Clarence Williams the Third) wants Rudy to rob an Casino during Christmas Eve. Since his recently dead best friend was working as a security guard. Now Rudy has an tough time to tell them that he is not Nick and now he is forced to make plans to rob the casino! The Holidays will be never the same for Rudy.

Directed by the late John Frankenheimer (Birdman of Alcatraz, Ronin, The Train) made an entertaining action-thriller with some cleverness, thanks to Ehren Kruger's script. Which Kruger is best known for writing "Scream 3", "Arlington Road" and "The Ring-2002". Affleck is certainly fun in the lead role, Theron is certainly sexy and an joy to watch in this film (Although she claims it is her worst film) and while actors like Sinise, Logue, Trejo and Williams the Third seems to be having an great time playing bad guys. While Dennis Farina is a hoot as the sleazy, fast-talking, casino owner. "Reindeer Games" was an box office disappointment, although the movie certainly plays better on DVD and during the holidays. If you are in the mood of action, watch "Die Hard 1 and 2" and "Reindeer Games" during the holidays. You will certainly have an blast.

DVD has an sharp anamorphic Widescreen (2.35:1) transfer (Also in Pan & Scan) and an strong Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound. DVD includes an decent commentary track by the late Frankenheimer, an behind the scenes featurette and trailer. "Reindeer Games" did have an small loyal cult following over the years. It is certainly not the greatest action movie out-there but it is certainly entertaining as a trashy guilty pleasure. If you love action, don't miss it. Watch for the late Oscar-Winner:Issac Hayes and Ashton Kutcher in Cameos. Super 35. (****/*****). Director's Cut runs 124 minutes.
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