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
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Did You Know?


Denis Leary only fires his gun once in the entire film. It was fired at the smoke detector to stop it from beeping. See more »


This film takes place in Connecticut. Several characters mention a county prosecutor throughout the film. Connecticut dissolved all county-level governments in 1960 and thus, there would be no such thing as a county prosecutor. In Connecticut, counties are solely geographic entities. See more »


Gus: Do you know what this family needs? A mute.
See more »


References In Society (1944) See more »


Get A Life
Written and Performed by David A. Stewart
David A. Stewart courtesy of Anxious/East West Records
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User Reviews

A quirky Christmas Story
28 December 2004 | by (Chesapeake, VA) – See all my reviews

I enjoyed the Ref immensely. It is an off-beat change of pace from most Christmas feel-good movies, yet it still comes together in the end. Denis Leary is very convincing as the successful cat burglar caught in the wrong place at the wrong time. Christine Baransky plays a delightfully deranged sister in law who is more interested in money and appearances than in family or Christmas. Kevin Spacey proves that he can play any part from milk toast nagged husband to serial killer.

One caution, though- if you are offended by cursing, then this movie is not for you. There is a great deal of cursing in it. If you've seen any of Denis Leary's stand-up, then you know what to expect, but if you want a Christmas movie to watch with the kids, go find A Christmas Story, Eloise at Christmastime or It's a Wonderful Life. Anything but this one!

26 of 31 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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