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I can imagine the pitch for "Reindeer Games" being thrown at the execs
behind the picture...
"Okay, it's about this guy, who's not who he says he is, who everybody thinks he is, who fools these guys who thinks he is, falls in love with this girl who thinks he is, even though he isn't, and they try to pull a heist with his expertise, even though he has none."
Nick (Ben Affleck) has just been released from jail for defending his girlfriend in a fight prior to being thrown into the slammer. Upon his release, a long-time pen pal named Ashley (Charlize Theron) greets him and they immediately hit the sack. However, her brother (Gary Sinise) wants Nick to help them pull a heist on Christmas Eve at a local Indian casino, which is run by a money hungry wannabe (Dennis Farina). Her brother kidnaps Nick, holds a gun to his head and commands him to draw up a sketch of the security points in the casino, since he used to work there and knows all there is to know about the casino. There is one minor detail, however, that may hinder their plan.
Nick is not Nick.
Nick is really a car jacker who overheard his jail cellmate, Nick, reading his letters from a penpal named Ashley aloud. Nick was killed before his release in the jail cafeteria, and so Nick took his identity so that he could meet up with the infamous Ashley he kept hearing about, forming a mental picture of her in his head.
If you stop to take the time and think through all the minor details of the film's plot (especially given the "twist" ending), you'll probably arive upon the conclusion that it's all a bunch of bull. It simply doesn't make sense if you really take the time to think it through.
If you don't put your brain to work, however, you'll find yourself having fun watching director John Frankenheimer's last film. Frankenheimer was a talented director, the man behind such films as "The Manchurian Candidate," "Seconds" and "Ronin." His last feature was one of his most stylish and brutal, fast-paced, funny, and often just fun to sit through.
Gary Sinise ("Forrest Gump," "Ransom") is his usual villainious self, while the real surprise comes from actress Charlize Theron, who switches character a lot through the film, especially towards the end, and is a real beauty and delight to watch. She's the film's high point, and though people criticize the plot, I found "Reindeer Games" mildly inventive with its shifting twists and turns, even if they aren't always so believable.
The film's downfall is its ending, which feels as if the filmmakers got caught up in all their twists and turns and unconsciously wrote themselves into a wall, then suddenly slapped on a cheesy, cliched ending with a sentimental good guy closing scene. It's rushed, silly, and doesn't fit in with the rest of the film.
Irregardless of its uncountable flaws, "Reindeer Games" (or "Deception" as it is called in the UK) is a fun film, John Frankenheimer's final movie. "Reindeer Games" is often linked as Frankenheimer's long-time dream picture, much like Sergio Leone's "Once Upon a Time in America." Like a dying man's final words, perhaps it conveyed some hidden meaning to Frankenheimer. Or, maybe everyone was wrong. Maybe "Reindeer Games" is nothing but another Frankenheimer film, this one not as good as most of his others.
But "Rosebud" didn't mean anything to anyone except Charles Foster Kane. Maybe "Reindeer Games" meant something to John Frankenheimer. However, as anyone who has ever seen "Citizen Kane" probably knows, it's not likely that we'll ever find out what it means, even if we try.
3/5 stars. Enjoyable if you don't put your brain to work.
- John Ulmer
This is one of the great actions flicks that is completely underrated
on IMDb. Great plot twists, great acting, great actors, great story.
This movie kept me enthralled the whole way. It was when Affleck still
had his charisma from Good Will Hunting. Charlize Theron dazzles us
with her smile and charm and Gary Sinise is sinister as the
intimidating "older brother". My only complaint was there were one too
many plot twists in the end. Otherwise, settle in for a smooth ride.
My favorite part of this movie are the prison sequences at the start and the final scenes. The prison sequence was very well done and Affleck is immediately identifiable as the likable car jacker. The final scenes are a great touch after the explosions, a nice touch to an enjoyable film. Sinise's fellow gang members are excellent as well, their intimidation tactics and craziness well transmitted to the screen.
See this movie around Christmas time. It may hold some more value.
After being imprisoned for six years on a grand theft auto charge, Rudy Duncan(Ben Affleck) and his cellmate Nick (HILARY AND JACKIE's James Frain) are finally going to be paroled. After hearing endless stories during his incarceration of Nick's romantic correspondence to a woman named Ashley he has never met (CIDER HOUSE RULES's Charlize Theron), Rudy is looking forward to returning to his family and having a fresh cup of hot chocolate. When Nick is killed during a prison riot, Rudy decides to assume Nick's identity upon release from prison and meet up with the unknown woman. Burdened with a base knowledge of Nick's Indian casino employment past, Rudy finds himself in too deep with Ashley's brother Gabriel (Gary Sinise) and is violently forced to cooperate with a casino robbery that Gabriel and his gang have been planning with Nick in mind.
From an original screenplay by Ehren Kruger, REINDEER is very much in the same vein as his last script ARLINGTON ROAD. While much more of an action film than the paranoia drenched ROAD, REINDEER holds it's deceptions very close to it's heart as well. Who can you trust, and for how long? Helmed by esteemed director John Frankenheimer (THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE, RONIN), REINDEER seems keenly aware of it's inane story, yet he keeps pushing the proceedings along briskly, trying to keep this casino heist plot afloat with good actors and a passable script. It's fun just to watch this tale unfold. All the professionals involved know this material isn't CITIZEN KANE, but as action films go nowadays, REINDEER's restraint is it's most endearing aspect. No pop culture references, not too many exploding fireballs, and Frankenheimer keeps the edit count down. REINDEER GAMES is a far more classy film than it's brethren.
It takes some time to get used to Ben Affleck as a tough ex-con. His baby face and peanut brittle voice do little to sell him as an action hero. As REINDEER trudges along, you get used to watching him act tough. It isn't the best performance that's come out of him (I'll save that honor for DOGMA), but Affleck is a likable enough guy and makes Rudy a character you want to see save the day. Imagine an aging lead vocalist for a Black Sabbath cover band and you'll have an idea what Gary Sinse looks like in REINDEER. He always makes a great passionate villain, but this time he takes his appearance one step further and actually looks like a threat. Charlize Theron keeps improving as an actress, but it is her new brunette look and honey smile that one takes away from her performance. She looks lovely in the snow, but not too much presence beyond that. The whole cast is somewhat stuck with Kruger's elementary script, and they all try hard to overcome it. It ends up being their individual charms that make REINDEER come out a winner.
I liked REINDEER GAMES for the throwaway Christmas thriller that it is. Taking advantage of the topical Native American casino boom and deliberately waltzing away from many clichés, GAMES is a pleasure to enjoy. We need more of these. ----- 8
John Frankenheimer follows up his great comeback film, "Ronin," with
"Reindeer Games," a flawed but efficient thriller that recalls his earlier
Freshly paroled ex-con Rudy Duncan (Ben Affleck) assumes the identity of his cellmate, Nick (who misses out on his parole when he is taken out during a prison riot), when Rudy falls for Nick's gorgeous pen-pal, Ashley (Charlize Theron). The ruse goes awry when he is also mistaken for Nick by a gang of thugs (headed by Gary Sinise) who recruit him in their planned heist of an Indian casino at which Nick had been employed.
Like "52 Pick-Up," "Reindeer Games" has a central character whose flawed behavior puts him at the mercy of dangerous individuals who conceive a scheme that spins out of control. "52 Pick-Up" was successful because the entire cast, beginning with Roy Scheider as the trapped hero, was equal to the task of bringing the grittiness of the material to the screen. The one significant problem with "Reindeer Games" is the casting of squeaky-clean Affleck as its central character. Through no fault of his own, Affleck looks like a lightweight alongside a supporting cast that includes Sinise, Clarence Williams III, Danny Trejo, and Dennis Farina -- all actors who look like they have lived a little. Affleck cuts a profile similar to that of Scheider, but without the lived-in look that made him convincing as someone who would be able to go toe to toe with his tormentors.
"Reindeer" is helped greatly by the performance of Theron, who, while also young, always has been able to project a more adult presence like the young Kathleen Turner. Credited more for her on- and off-screen glamour, Theron often is underrated as an actress. Here she conveys equal parts sweetness, intelligence, dismay, and ferocity. Of course, she also livens up her sensual scenes. For many actresses, nudity itself is the extent of their sexuality, but Theron generates heat simply by looking comfortable and bringing an unforced quality to the proceedings.
The other major plus is Frankenheimer's direction, which turns an adequate screenplay into a solid thriller. He keeps the story moving and handles the action scenes economically, avoiding the excesses of Michael Bay, Simon West, and other directors of MTV-inspired fireball-fests. As in "Ronin," the action actually stays within the bounds of plausibility, which makes them more involving.
Reindeer Games is about an ex-con who has taken over his cell mate's
identity, so he can run of with the other guy's girlfriend when he gets
out of jail. Of course not everything goes as planned. Not only does he
get the girl, he also gets a lot of trouble, because some other
criminals wanted to use his cell mate to rob a casino. He doesn't know
anything about the casino, nor about robbing one, but if he doesn't
help them, they will shoot him immediately. So he helps them robbing
the casino, wearing a Santa costume, because it is Christmas...
The concept is quite good, but of course not very original. In fact: the whole movie is professionally done, but not that special, so don't expect anything innovating or new. However, when you can forget that for a moment you'll have some good fun watching it. Only at the end it really failed, there were just too many explosions who aren't really doing any good to the rest of the story if you ask me.
But no problem, at least it's something different than "The Sound of Music" or "Home Alone" which you'll normally see around Christmas. It offers decent fun, without excelling once, so that's why I give this movie a 6/10.
If you love movies with a bunch of twists, this is a wonderful movie. Up until the very end you are wondering what/who is what/who... It is a suspense filled movie with some well known actors and actresses, which is why I thought I would watch it. I had never heard of the movie, but was glad I watched it. I like Gary Sinise and he does a good job with his role in this movie. I like seeing the scenery and the casino, not sure if the movie was filmed on location, but it sure looked like it was. If you like fast paced action it is a good movie. If you are looking for something high brow, you may want to pass... It is just a good movie for the sake of a good movie. And I like the ending, and never saw it coming!
When a movie has one or two cliched events in it, you can let it slip. But this film has so many, I can't believe it was given a go to be produced. There are so many implausible plot twists and scenes that would have NEVER happened, it takes away from what actual story might exist in this film. It's not like Die Hard, where you're so involved in the movie, you're willing to overlook dumb twists or bad lines. The bad twists in this movie only remind you that you're watching something that should not have made it to film. I can't figure out why Frankenhiemer did this film. BUT, it does have the great Gary Sinese, who I think is one of the best bad guys in film. For that, it can't be totally bad.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I'd never heard of the movie DECEPTION , possibly because it's known as
REINDEER GAMES in America ( I really had a problem trying to track the
title down at this site ) but what struck was the short synopsis given
to it in the TV page of the newspaper : " An ex-con adopts his former
cellmate's identity in order to meet the man's girlfriend . Thriller
with Ben Affleck and Charlize Theron " . Instantly I thought I would be
watching something similar to NIGHT OF THE HUNTER , yeah okay Ben
Affleck sure ain't Robert Mitchum but the plot sounded very similar .
Unfortunately what let's this movie down is the script along with the
So I should have guessed that Affleck wasn't going to play a bad guy , but let's face it he can't play good guys either - he is a very poor actor who only became famous because of his connection with Matt Damon which goes to prove it's not what you know , it's who you know that's the key to success . Pain , mortal fear , angst - Affleck is unable to portray any of these negative emotions and considering his character Rudy/Nick spends much of the movie getting beaten up and threatened this is a major draw back to the movie . Nice to know we won't be seeing him in too many movies in the future and if Matt Damon is looking for a new best friend I'd happily nominate myself . Let's do lunch Matt . Thankfully Gary Sinese and Danny Trejo ( Check out this guy's bio ) manage to carry the film with their performances
The screenplay by Ehron Kruger doesn't play out like NIGHT OF THE HUNTER , the " Man stealing the identity of his dead cellmate " subplot is just used to set up the story and if anything resembles CLIFFHANGER with a bunch of bad ass gangsters holding their victim hostage to get what they want . There's lots of chases in the snow and the occasional passer by getting bumped off but there's some ridiculous plot holes . For example Rudy and his girlfriend are drowning under the ice so Rudy uses his gun to shoot his way out of a watery grave . What he can fire a gun under water ? And there's a scene where Rudy is shackled to a bed . He then manages to break free , go to a swimming pool to discover a plot twist , go back to the hotel room he is held hostage and dupe one of the bad guys into believing he's still shackled to the bed by having the bed rest on his foot , then the action cuts to the morning where Rudy is taken out to the villains' van . It's just that come the morning none of the baddies has noticed that Rudy has dismantled the bed to escape his shackles . Little things like this ruin the DECEPTION's thriller elements . I know in these type of movies you have to suspend disbelief sometimes but here you have to suspend it a little too much for the movie to be effective . And because it's John Frankenheimer's last movie many of the reviewers seem to slightly more forgiving about this thriller's faults than I am
Ben Affleck plays Rudy, a con just trying to go straight (are there other
kinds in the movies?), waiting for his imminent release. He and his cellmate
Nick each have plans of enjoying themselves once they get out of stir.
Nick's involves meeting and spending the rest of his life with a woman he's
never met, a pen pal named Ashley (Charlize Theron). Ah, but the best-laid
plans and all that go horribly awry when Nick is slain a few days before
they're both due to be sprung. What a coincidence! Naturally, Rudy pretends
to be Nick to Ashley, discovering her to be quite the cutie. You see, he's
just gotten out of prison, hasn't been with a woman in years, and.... Well,
anyway, he hooks up with the gorgeous Ashley, and all is well - for a few
hours, anyway, until Ashley's brother Gabriel (Gary Sinise) shows up and
demands Rudy/Nicky help him and his gang - who have never robbed anyone -
pull off a heist of a local Indian casino. Of course, Rudy, being Rudy and
not Nick, doesn't know a thing about the casino (Nick was a guard there
years ago). And he tries to tell Gabriel that. But wouldn't you know it, the
creep just won't listen! (Bad guys are like that.)
So your basic plot involves Rudy trying to help/not help these guys with their evil plan, and of course they'll stop at nothing, and of course things go wrong, etc. Oh sure, there are a few plot twists, and some will have you guessing, but my bet is there's going to be a lot in this movie that you've seen before. And if you think the plot's relatively ho-hum, with few surprises, then you're left with the performances of the three main leads.
Ben Affleck is miscast, in my opinion. His character's not terribly likeable (I mean he DOES lie to Charlize Theron, after all), but that's not his fault. Affleck's problem is that he combines arrogance with tough-guy attitude and thinks it makes him multifaceted. No, Ben, it makes you look like a jerk. A better choice for this role might have been Edward Norton (Fight Club). Norton can play tough with foibles, and I don't think Affleck has that ability.
Charlize Theron is outstanding. She delivers a deep, stunning performance that produces new wrinkles with each scene. Much like Barbara Stanwyck in Double Indemnity, Theron is crafty, essaying more in those bewitching eyes than most actors can in an entire soliloquy.
And Gary Sinise? He's Gary Sinise. He's sinister, he's mean-spirited....he's the heavy. He's the bad guy, folks, and Sinise has played this role a few times, so he knows what he's doing. Oh sure, maybe his character is nothing more than a cardboard Bad Guy role, but hey, that's more the fault of the screenwriting than it is of the actor, so I won't blame him. I've seen his talent range, and I know he's got some. (See Of Mice and Men or The Green Mile or Ransom.)
Bottom line - it's not exactly filled with the kind of twists that'll keep you guessing, but it's not too bad. It is, however, a bit of a comedown from the director of The Manchurian Candidate. But fret not, friends - it is, after all, a rental at this point, and it's worth the $3.50 or so.
*** out of ****
Reindeer Games is a semi-guilty pleasure to be sure. I don't feel it's one of those so-bad-it's-good sort of movies, but the script relies quite a bit on chance and one of the plot twists, though quite fun and unpredictable, is a bit on the implausible side. The likelihood of this situation panning itself out the way it did here isn't very high, but the film works because of John Frankenheimer's direction, the charismatic cast, and the dark humor.
Rudy Duncan (Ben Affleck), a car thief, and his cellmate and best friend Nick Cassidy (James Frain) are two days away from being released from prison. Rudy just wants to return home to his family, while Nick plans on meeting with his pen-pal girlfriend, a beautiful woman named Ashley (Charlize Theron). Unfortunately, a food fight breaks out in the prison cafeteria and Nick is killed, leaving Rudy with a dilemma. When he's released, at the last moment, he decides to pose as Nick to Ashley.
For the first few days, this is Heaven for Rudy. He and Ashley click immediately, and they make love in a motel. However, returning back to the motel from some shopping, he's ambushed and beaten by Ashley's brother, Gabriel (Gary Sinise) and his men. Having read Nick's letters and discovering he'd worked as a security guard at the Tomahawk Casino, he plans to use Rudy (whom he thinks is Nick) to help him rob the casino. Rudy has to now find a way to convince everyone he's Nick and get out of this situation alive.
From the opening scene featuring five dead Santas in the snow, Reindeer Games had me riveted. It's a fine way to open the film, giving the feeling that something disastrous has just occured, and it piqued my interest. Using the flashback method in this film is effective, which may now be considered tiresome in films overall, but it works here.
After The Island of Dr. Moreau, it looked as if though director Frankenheimer's career was almost over; then came Ronin, an action thriller that featured some exciting shootouts and one of the most brilliant car chases ever filmed. Reindeer Games still features Frankenheimer doing a first-rate job. While his direction is far from flawless (he has a pesky insistence to shoot many, many close-ups) he does an excellent job creating suspense and believable action scenes.
Reindeer Games tries to work as both action and suspense, and for the most part, it succeeds. The action is refreshingly not over-the-top in the "how do we top the next stunt" style seen in so many Jerry Bruckheimer or Joel Silver blockbuster films. Frankenheimer injects tension into the gunplay, fistfights, and chases, and these scenes work better than they probably could have in another less talented director's hands.
Ehren Kruger wrote the script, and he puts in a lot of dark humor. There are a lot of funny moments, due mostly to Affleck trying to ad-lib and convince everyone he's actually Nick. Of course, Kruger is also (in)famous for plot twists that just about nobody can predict, but are also wildly improbable. Actually, Reindeer Games' final plot twist is perhaps more likely to occur than the twists in Kruger's other scripts (Scream 3 and Arlington Road). Speaking of that twist, let me just say that you might or might not figure it out almost exactly a minute before it happens. Unlikely or not, there's no denying that last twist is a lot of fun.
Director Frankenheimer and screenwriter Kruger also seem to know what the audience wants from this sort of movie, and they fill it with everything they can, including violent action, the dark humor, the twists and turns, as well as a good dose of sex and nudity, provided mostly by Charlize Theron. The fact that she's a lovely woman doesn't hurt matters at all.
The cast plays a major part in the film's success. Ben Affleck has proven he's one of cinema's most charismatic young actors. His Rudy Duncan is character you can root for the whole way through because Affleck molds him into a likable and energetically funny persona. Gary Sinise chews the scenery big-time as the villain. Let's face it, he's easily one of the best actors around and it's somewhat of a shame to see him play a role like this when he's easily suited for something more complex, but he has so much fun in the role it's hard not to feel his enthusiasm. Charlize Theron doesn't really get a whole lot to work with. She has only a few modes, mostly just relegated to smiling or crying, or looking lost or angry. The supporting cast mostly consists of Gabriel's henchmen, which include Clarence William III, Donal Logue, and Danny Trejo, all of whom deliver okay performances. The only other cast member with signifcant screen time is Dennis Farina, who tries to chew the scenery like Sinise, but isn't half as effective or memorable.
Of course, not everything in the film is effective. The film has a dark tone and atmosphere almost the whole way through, and it creates more unpleasant scenes than are welcome. You also have to wonder about the intelligence of Gabriel and his men; they simply don't have a lot of it. They get fooled by Rudy a little too easily and after a while, it feels like they give him too many chances.
But ultimately, those are my only true gripes with the movie. Reindeer Games hardly takes itself ultra-seriously, and as a result it's a fun ride virtually the whole way through. There's nothing truly innovative or brilliant at work here, and the film's certainly not saying anything deep; it's just for entertainment value, and all the elements work together well to create an enjoyable and fast-paced thriller.
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