Ehren Kruger has certainly been busy these days. After last summer's
surprisingly good "Arlington Road" and the surprisingly bad "Scream 3", from
earlier this month, Kruger seems to have become the most sought writer in
Hollywood. The problem is, if "Reindeer Games" is any indication of Kruger's
writing abilities, he may be in some very serious trouble. "Reindeer Games"
is loaded with corny, cliched dialogue and horrendous action sequences. The
film throws "surprises" at you left and right, but anyone can see them
coming a mile away. In fact, the only thing that saved the film from an even
lower rating from me was the presence of Charlize Theron and Gary Sinise,
who manage to spark some life into their dreary parts.
It's one week till Christmas, and Rudy (Ben Affleck) and his best friend,
Nick (James Frain), are just about to be released from prison. Nick's
primary reason for wanting desperately to be released is so that he can be
with Ashley (Charlize Theron), a girl he has fallen in love with while
corresponding with her from prison. However, a brawl in the mess hall
results in his being stabbed and killed. Rudy leaves prison the next day and
hooks up with Ashley, while posing as Nick. While everything goes well at
first, Rudy is soon "introduced" to Ashley's brother, Gabriel (Gary Sinise),
who wants Nick's help robbing a casino. Rudy is unable to convince Gabriel
and his cohorts that he isn't Nick, and he soon finds himself planning a
heist which he has no idea how to accomplish.
While the film started off poorly, I thought maybe it would pick up once the
real bad guys showed up. I knew I was in some very serious trouble when the
line behind the film's title came out. It goes like this: Gabriel has been
told repeatedly by Rudy that he is not Nick, and is now pointing a gun at
Rudy's head. Rudy starts yelling that he is Nick afterall, and Gabriel
responds by lowering the gun and saying "don't you be playing any reindeer
games". I actually spent the next few minutes trying to figure out just what
in the world that meant. My advice, don't bother trying to figure that, or
anything else in this movie out. You'll just get a headache. Rudy also
appears to have the greatest luck in history in this film. I'm not talking
about John McClane kind of luck, where you're shot at by a machine gun for a
few seconds, and it does nothing but hit walls. I mean, Rudy gets shot at
from point blank range constantly and yet always escapes unscathed.
Along with the cheesy dialogue and insanely unbelievable luck, there are the
"surprises". I saw this film in a fairly crowded theater, and, as a result,
I was able to listen in on a few conversations. These mainly consisted of
people saying, "And next, he's gonna" or "I'll bet you that he's really,"
followed by something which would occur in the next couple minutes. As for
the casting, Ben Affleck is horribly miscast as a car thief who's been in
prison for the past five years or so. Throughout the film, he looked like he
just got out of college and took a wrong turn in a really bad neighborhood.
He found everything that transpired to be shocking, and he wanted nothing to
do with any illegal activities. Sorry folks, it's not that I don't believe
in reform, but I don't believe prison turns you into a boyscout either.
Like I said, the two supporting actors, Gary Sinise ("Forrest Gump", "The
Green Mile") and Charlize Theron ("The Devil's Advocate", "The Astronaut's
Wife") are all that make this film worth seeing. However, both these actors
have appeared in far better films, and I suggest you go rent one of them
rather than seeing this one. "Reindeer Games" runs about fifteen minutes too
long at 105 minutes. I recommend it only to those who adore Ben Affleck
(he's in almost every scene),or to those of you who are starved for an
action movie (though this hardly qualifies). If you want my advice, go see
"American Beauty" this weekend instead. I give "Reindeer Games" a sadly
generous two out of five stars.
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* * * * * - One of the greatest movies ever made, see it now.
* * * * - Great flick, try and catch this one.
* * * - Okay movie, hits and misses.
* * - Pretty bad, see it only if you've got nothing better to do.
* - One of the worst movies ever made. See it only if you enjoy pain.
Copyright © 2000 John Beachem