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Reindeer Games

"Reindeer Games" on DVD

A Rudy Wakening

by Johnny Bray

Nick is not Nick.

Nick is actually Rudy, but he tells the bad guys he’s Nick so they won’t kill him. However, he told them about eight thousand times that he was actually Rudy, and not Nick, but they think he’s Nick anyway because they’re the bad guys and therefore stupid. They don’t realize that Nick is actually dead, and Rudy was just pretending to be Nick so he could get Ashley in the sack.

So now Rudy is stuck playing Nick, even though he doesn’t have the slightest idea what he’s talking about. Fortunately, he’s the smartest ex-con on the planet and can manage to figure out exactly what Nick had done years before, though they had never discussed it.

Sound a bit confusing? Try watching the movie.

By directing Ronin, one would have thought that John Frankenheimer had come back to us, after leaving us all with a bitter aftertaste from The Island of Dr. Moreau (excuse me while I shudder).

Nick and Rudy are three days away from getting out of the slammer. Nick has been writing to Ashley for six months, and has three million pictures of her on the wall beside his bed (not that we can blame him).

All he wants to do when he gets out, is to -- well, you know -- with Ashley.

Rudy, setting his sights high, is happy with a cup of hot chocolate and some pecan pie. This becomes the premise of the movie’s running gag.

After Nick is killed in a cafeteria riot, Rudy gets out and assumes his identity in order to -- well, you know -- with Ashley.

But after a few days of living the semi-high life, “Nick” and Ashley are blackmailed by Ashley’s older brother, Gabriel (a pretty wimpy name for such a tough guy, I must say).

All Gabriel wants is for Nick to help him rob a casino. Nothing unreasonable about that.

Ben Affleck is Nick (or Rudy, or whoever he is), and tries far too hard to be funny rather than heroic. Gary Sinise plays Gabriel, and Charlize Theron (the best part of the movie by far) plays Ashley.

The biggest flaw with Reindeer Games is that it tries to be an action, comedy, suspense, thriller, romance, and everything else, all at the same time. This, of course, makes it difficult to be any one of them successfully.

Sadly enough, the best part of the movie is the credits. No, there’s nothing special about them, you’re just so sick of watching the movie that they are a very pleasant sight.

The film has a lot of “twists and turns” throughout its duration, as well as a James Bond-style ending in which the bad guys reveal everything about their plans. In this case, the plans are a lot more absurd than in the Bond movies (now there’s a frightening thought).

On top of that, the plan takes sooooooooooo unbelievably long to explain; meaning of course, that the writers know you won’t be able to understand it so they figure they’ll help you out. By the end, you’re left saying “okay, whatever”, not caring that it’s the most ridiculous thing you’ve ever heard.

After seeing Ronin, I really wanted to see Frankenheimer’s next movie, not realizing it was going to be this.

Your time would be better spent watching reruns of your least favorite TV show.

The DVD is in widescreen, enhanced for 16x9 TV's, as well as Pan&Scan, and both versions get Dolby Digital audio; the audio and video quality are very good. Extras include a running commentary from director Frankenheimer, a featurette, and the trailer.

Reindeer Games, from Alliance Atlantis Home Video
103 min. widescreen (2.35:1) 16x9 compatible, and Pan&Scan, Dolby Digital
Starring Ben Affleck, Gary Sinise, Charlize Theron
Produced by Marty Katz, Bob Weinstein, Chris Moore
Written by Ehren Kruger, Directed by John Frankenheimer.


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Updated May 13, 2006