Saturday, February 29, 2020

Reindeer Games

Premiered February 25, 2000.

This year's edition of "Oscar Takes A Holiday" concludes with our review of the Christmas-themed action movie Reindeer Games, which features two Academy Award Winners.

Charlize Theron won the Best Actress Oscar for Monster (2003).

Ben Affleck has never won an Academy Award for acting.  However, he won the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay for co-writing Good Will Hunting (1997) with Matt Damon.  Affleck later won the Best Picture Academy Award for co-producing Argo (2012) .

And now, here's our final Oscars-themed review of 2020!:

Car thief Rudy Duncan (Ben Affleck) and his cell mate Nick Cassidy (James Frain) are two days away from being released from prison.  Rudy is looking forward to hot chocolate, pecan pie and watching sports with his father.  

Nick has been corresponding with a woman named Ashley (Charlize Theron) and he plans to spend the upcoming Christmas season with her.  Unfortunately, Nick is killed in a prison riot just before his release date.

When Rudy is released, he sees Ashley waiting outside the prison and decides he will pretend to be Nick. They immediately fall for each other.  Rudy decides to wait until Christmas is over to tell her he isn't Nick.

Rudy's plans change when he's ambushed by several men.  The leader of the attack is Ashley's brother Gabriel (Gary Sinise), who is also known as "Monster."  Gabriel knows Nick worked as a security guard in a casino and thinks "Nick" will help him pull off a casino heist on Christmas Eve. Rudy attempts to tell Gabriel that he's not Nick and that he knows nothing about casinos.  However, Rudy changes his tune when a gun is pointed at his head.  He pretends to know about the casino's schematics and agrees to be part of the robbery.

Ashley confesses that she knew Gabriel would do this to Nick, but she expected Gabriel to wait until New Year's Eve.

Will Rudy go through with the robbery?  Will Gabriel discover that Rudy isn't Nick?   Will Rudy survive and make it to Christmas?

J.A. Morris says:
I really like the idea of a movie like Reindeer Games.  I have no problem with a "shoot-em-up" action/heist Christmas movie with a high body count.  There is room for every genre at Christmas time. The problem with Reindeer Games is that it's an idea that’s poorly executed and the story is a mess.  

Reindeer Games has lots of problems. One of the biggest problems is that Rudy's lie (about being Nick) leads to the death of an innocent ice fisherman when Rudy attempts to escape from Gabriel's gang.  Rudy later seems to forget about it.  That's just bad storytelling.  Reindeer Games also features multiple expositions where characters explain what there going to do while pointing guns in each other's faces and lots of double and triple-crosses.

It's too bad Reindeer Games wasn't better, because the talent in front of and behind the camera is amazing.  Director John Frankenheimer helmed a bunch of good movies, most notably Birdman Of Alcatraz, Seven Days In May and The Manchurian Candidate.  Sadly, Reindeer Games was Frankenheimer's last theatrical film.  

In spite of my general negative opinions about Reindeer Games, I don’t want to spoil the ending.  Let’s just say there’s a revelation late in the movie that’s a bit hard to believe even in the context of a big dumb action movie.  

In addition to the leads, the cast features a "Who's Who?" of great character actors: James Frain, Clarence Williams III, Danny Trejo and Donald Logue, Dennis Farina and Isaac Hayes. Unfortunately, these actors can't elevate the material they have to work with.

Reindeer Games features a great cast that is sadly wasted. It’s not recommended and I’m giving it our lowest rating.

J.A. Morris' rating:

A stocking full of coal.

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