With actors delivering lines completely over the top, tons of action, a ridiculous plot, and an extremely hot Charlize Theron, 2000’s Reindeer Games could be the best, bad, guilty pleasure action film ever made. Now this gem is on Blu-ray looking great and available in the director’s cut – which is about 20 minutes longer!
Directed by John Frankenheimer (Ronin, Birdman of Alcatraz, and The Manchurian Candidate) and written by Ehren Kruger (Transformers: Dark of the Moon, and The Ring), the film stars Theron, Ben Affleck, Gary Sinise, James Frain, Isaac Hayes, Clarence Williams III, Donal Logue, Danny Trejo, Dennis Farina. This movie is so great even Ashton Kutcher and Ron Jeremy show up.
The film opens to men dressed in Santa Claus suits dead in a casino and then jumps to six days earlier and prison inmates Nick Cassidy (Frain) and Rudy Duncan (Affleck). Both are petty criminals with three days left on their sentence and plans for life once they are out. Nick has been corresponding with Ashley (Theron) while he has been in prison and he is counting the hours until he can hook up with her on the outside. Rudy has been counting the hours until he can quit hearing Nick talk about his plans for Ashley.
During a prison riot, Rudy is killed which gives Nick the opportunity to take his identity and hook up with Ashley – an idea that seems hard to argue with after he sees her. After all, he has been in prison for several years.
The idea comes at a cost as Rudy discovers Ashley was setting Nick up for her brother Gabriel (Sinise) and his truck driving friends who plan to use Nick to help them rob the casino where he used to work. Their plan is to hit the casino on Christmas Eve and they need Nick’s help to find the “PowWow safe” – where the casino owner keeps all the cash. Rudy, still pretending to be Nick, tries to get out of the situation, but Gabriel’s pals Merlin (Williams), Pug (Logue) and Jumpy (Trejo) are very persuasive.
The first half of the movie is spent with poor Rudy trying desperately to escape or at least convince Ashley to help him. Sadly, the audience knows that Ashley isn’t really a nice girl and Gabriel is probably not really her brother. Arriving at the scene of the heist, Rudy is given a horrible cowboy disguise and has to think on his feet to come with excuses for not knowing his way around the casino.
Naturally, the robbery goes horribly wrong, and the second half of the film is spent with Rudy on the run from Gabriel and Ashley. It also tries to force several twists that are easily spotted and feel a little desperate.
Reindeer Games is not a great movie and won’t become a cornerstone of the action genre. With that said, it is a lot of fun to watch, but requires the brain to be turned completely off. It is a man’s movie that just requires a big bowl of popcorn for ultimate enjoyment. Frankenheimer knows how to make this kind of film and the talented director fills the ending with tons of action to pay off some of the silly moments the audience had to suffer through getting there.
Affleck does his best to make the film seem like a real thriller, and manages to make his character entertaining (I cracked up at his cowboy disguise). He plays the character as a fast talking everyman forced into a bad situation – kind of like a wimpy Bruce Willis in Die Hard mode.
Sinise seems to think he is in a completely different movie and goes for broke as the ultimate screen bad guy. The talented actor snarls his lines, constantly growls at the camera, and feels every word he utters should have some kind of threatening sound to it. He also likes throwing the F’bomb as much as possible. At times, he reminds you of the little dog talking tough as he jumps around the big bulldog.
Theron isn’t given too much to do but walk on camera and look beautiful. She is an extremely talented actress, but this isn’t that kind of movie. This is the kind of movie where a hot woman gets a loser to do what she needs him to do, and Theron owns that role without trying too hard. Throw in the bizarre love scene with Sinise, and she might need to give that Oscar back.
On Blu-ray, the film looks and sounds great, but there is no real reason for the double dip if you already own the director’s cut on DVD. The special features are the same and consist of commentary from Frankenheimer, and a behind the scenes featurette.
Reindeer Games won’t win any awards as the best action film ever made, but it isn’t that bad – provided you are in the right mood to watch it. Since it lacks any new bonus material, there isn’t much of a reason to pick up the Blu-ray, but the movie can be fun on a rainy day with nothing to do.
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