A cat burglar is forced to take a bickering, dysfunctional family hostage on Christmas Eve.



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Richard Bright ...
Phillip Nicoll ...
Ellie Raab ...
Herbie Ade ...


Denis Leary plays an unfortunate cat burglar, who is abandonded by his partner in the middle of a heist, and is forced to take an irritating Connecticut couple (Kevin Spacey, Judy Davis) hostage. He soon finds that he took more than he bargained for when the couple's blackmailing son and despicable in-laws step into the picture. Before long they're driving him nuts with their petty bickering and family problems. The only way for him to survive is to be their referee and resolve their differences, before he can be nabbed by the police. Written by Nick D. <ndoherty@imt.net>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


They might be his hostages but what they're doing to this guy is criminal. See more »


Comedy | Crime | Drama

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for language | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

11 March 1994 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Egy híján túsz  »

Box Office


$11,000,000 (estimated)


$11,439,193 (USA)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:




Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


The original ending had Denis Leary being caught by the cops to show the son that a life of crime leads nowhere. However, after screening the movie to a test audience and receiving negative comments about the ending, director Ted Demme changed it. He now admits he regrets changing it. See more »


The candle headpieces burn down faster at some times than at others. See more »


Gus: [into phone] Murray! How are ya, pal?
Murray: I'm fine Gussie. How are you?
Gus: Oh, just a little tired after running for ten hundred
Gus: fuckin' miles because there was no fuckin' car waiting for me!
[beats the phone against the counter numerous times, then back into phone]
Gus: What did I tell you? I told you to act like a drunk vagrant imbecile! Is that too much of a *fuckin'* stretch?
See more »


References A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965) See more »


Welcome To The Suburbs
Written by David A. Stewart & Shara Nelson
Performed by Shara Nelson
Courtesy of Chrysalis Records (U.K.)
See more »

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User Reviews

Lloyd and Lester
12 January 2005 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

Have you noticed? Lloyd, Kevin Spacey's character in "The Ref" is closely related to Lester, Kevin Spacey's character in "American Beauty" if you see both movies, back to back, you'll notice the astonishing similarities between the two. Twins? Maybe. If they are, or were, poor Lester, a lot of things will become immediately clear. To start with, he had Glynis Johns for a mother. Miss Jones creates such a frighteningly funny portrait of a castrating mother that Lester's emasculation is perfectly explained. Not to mention their choice of spouses, time bombs Judi Davis and Annette Bening This little piece of trivia will add, to the considerable pleasures of this delightful and underrated Ted Demme's dark fairy tale. The opening at the marriage counselor's office is just superb, I can see it endlessly, it never fails to make me laugh. Kevin Spacey and Judi Davis are a couple part Edward Albee part Terence Rattigan. They are priceless. Dennis Leary's energy is contagious and relentless. His best part to date. The clunky sub plot involving their son and, what it appears, like a hurried ending, doesn't spoil the fun. The writing by the brilliant Richard LaGravenesse and Marie Weiss is pure joy. Ideal to see with a bunch of friends.

64 of 78 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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