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REINDEER GAMES

SYNOPSIS:
Car thief Rudy (Ben Affleck) is about to be paroled from prison. His cell mate Nick (James Frain), also due for parole, has been corresponding with Ashley (Charlize Theron), who has fallen in love with him and will be waiting for him once he's released. When Nick is killed in a prison riot, Rudy assumes his identity. Complications set in when Ashley's criminal brother Gabriel (Gary Sinise) arrives and demands that "Nick" take part in a heist at a casino where the real Nick once worked. To stay alive Rudy must maintain his adopted persona and devise a plan to pull off the robbery for real.

"Reindeer Games spends almost its entire running time justifying a ridiculous plot which no amount of effort from director John Frankenheimer and a solid cast can undo. The only believable element of this throwback to film noir is Ben Affleck's decision to adopt his dead friend's identity in order to score some sack time with Charlize Theron. How fortunate she doesn't have a picture of her long distance lover she met via in the pages of a "prisoner's contact magazine" (I wonder if it's available at newsstands or do you buy it under the counter in a plastic bag?). Had this been done in the 40s the plot contrivances might be acceptable but who can believe for a minute that the real Nick never even sent a photo to Ashley or the casino doesn't have security cameras in the carpark. Not this one; otherwise they'd have spotted the hoods roll up in broad daylight and unload guns from the boot. Who'd believe that Rudy was Nick for longer than five seconds? Yet Gabriel spends the whole film finding weak excuses to keep Rudy/Nick alive. There are double and triple crosses down the line which are meant to impress us with their cleverness but all they do is make us angry at being led on a not-so-merry chase for 110 minutes. John Frankenheimer knows how to stage action and comes up with some exciting scenes but the abominable script by 27 year-old Ehren Kruger makes his task a salvage operation with few rewards."
Richard Kuipers

"The recent rash of rather ordinary movies hitting our screens doesnít improve much with Reindeer Games. The title is pretty dumb; but the plot is even dumber. It starts out promisingly enough, with shades of Cyrano de Bergerac in the unlikely triangle of Rudy, Nick and Ashley. But when it gets onto the main event (a plan to rob a casino) the wheels simply fall off. Director John Frankenheimer doesnít come close to matching his early work. At its best, the direction is sluggish, while at its worst, itís downright confusing. Of course, heís lumbered with a script which provides little in the way of narrative drive and dialogue thatís so insipid the actors look embarrassed having to deliver it. Towards the end, I got the impression the filmmakers decided to abandon all pretensions at seriousness and go for laughs - and trust me, there are laughs to be had. Having done that, however, they opt for a schmaltzy finish that doesnít sit easily with the graphic violence which precedes it. Charlize Theron at least injects some interest into her character, but Ben Affleck and Gary Sinese seem to be simply going through the motions. Look out for the seemingly ubiquitous Dennis Farina and the Shaft music man himself, Isaac Hayes, in minor roles. A muddled and unsuccessful exercise, thereís precious little incentive to join in these Reindeer Games."
David Edwards

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 0
Unfavourable: 2
Mixed: 0

TRAILER

REINDEER GAMES (MA)
(US)

CAST: Ben Affleck, Gary Sinise, Charlize Theron, Clarence Williams III

DIRECTOR: John Frankenheimer

PRODUCER: Scarlett Pettyjohn, Chris Moore, Marty Karz, Bob Weinstein

SCRIPT: Ehren Kruger

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Alan Caso

EDITOR: Antony Gibbs, Michael Kahn

MUSIC: Alan Silvestri

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Barbara Dunphy

RUNNING TIME: 104minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: October 5, 2000

VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow Home Ent

VIDEO RELEASE: May 23, 2001







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