Reindeer Games Nov 11, 2013 15:43:13 GMT -5
Post by StevePulaski on Nov 11, 2013 15:43:13 GMT -5
Reindeer Games (2000)
Directed by: John Frankenheimer
Directed by: John Frankenheimer
Ben Affleck disguised as Santa Claus in Reindeer Games.
If John Frankenheimer's Reindeer Games provided me with any sort of advice, it's not to neglect nineties/early-2000's action cinema. During that time, many action films were released, boasting names like Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Steven Seagal and usually served as nothing more than cinematic timekillers or blatant star vehicles for muscular men catering to an audience that beared heavy testosterone levels. From my very limited acquaintance with the genre, it seems the attractiveness of these films was their inanity and their craziness, along with their often far-fetched plot-points, far-from-realistic instances, and technical and aesthetic imperfections that are now widely different from the glossy, overly-polished action filmmaking techniques we're used to today.
But who would've thought the actor to jump on this train would be Ben Affleck and the director to capture this moment be John Frankenheimer? This, unfortunately, marked a sour time in Affleck's career, as nearly every mainstream effort he did seemed to garner nothing but negativity, and was Frankenheimer's final directorial effort before his death in 2002. This isn't necessarily the best film to conclude a career like his on (he directed the original Manchurian Candidate and Seven Days in May). It's quite possible that if I saw this back when it was out, given the director's list of renowned films, I would've hated it. But if there's anything that has changed about me in recent years, I'm beginning to love a silly, completely ridiculous thriller or action film. Preferably, but not restricted to, those starring Ben Affleck.
Reindeer Games takes the cake for being one of the most asinine films I've seen this year in terms of plot, twists, and character motives. Characters possess unrealistic, confused ideas, for being such confident criminals, the storyline in itself is a muddle of complete buffoonery, and don't get me started on the twist ending, which is convoluted and almost too ambitious. I'm aware this sounds like the making of a negative review, but damn, I'd be telling an unforgivable lie if I didn't say I got some weird, B-level entertainment out of Reindeer Games. Here's a little diamond in the rough boasting A-list actors, an intriguing little premise, and several settings there are at the mercy of their actors in terms of the way they're utilized.
Ben Affleck plays Rudy Duncan, a car-thief currently serving time with Nick Cassidy (Nick Frain), his cellmate. Nick has been writing letters to a woman named Ashley, who is the only person that seems to bring Nick any kind of happiness in life, unlike Rudy who has nothing but basic middle class life to look forward to upon his release. A day before Rudy and Nick's release, a prison uprising results in Nick's death, and realizing that Ashley will now be left alone, he decides to assume the identity of Nick in order to at least have some affectionate love, a caring soul, and some great, if violent, sex upon his release.
Arming himself with the knowledge he has gained from Nick's letters to Ashley, Rudy exits prison with the adopted personality of his former cellmate and meets Ashley (Charlize Theron). It turns out, Ashley's brother Gabriel (Gary Sinise) and three of his friends planned to rob the casino Nick used to work at and utilize him as a source for information regarding the building and the whereabouts of the casino's safe. Ashley confesses to Nick (Rudy) that she wrote to him with this in mind, and despite Rudy imploring that he isn't Nick and faked this entire thing to earn the company of Ashley, he is forced to go along with the robbery at hand.
For starters, Gabriel and his thugs are some of the most listless robbers in movie history. They have a vague plan, they have little intelligence on their side, and they are often blocked by their own pitiful ineptitude. This is noticeable immediately after Rudy confesses he is not Nick. They don't believe him but threaten to kill him. Then Rudy says he is Nick. Then he isn't Nick. This goes back and forth for about five minutes in a confusing manner, so that we can't even be truly certain how the robbers plan to justify that he is Nick (or isn't).
But such things like this become in the back of our minds when we see the craziness the film continues to release. Consider what Rudy looks forward to upon getting out of prison (six months of eating nothing but leftovers among other things he states in a corny monologue the film begins with and ends with). But when he agrees to help Gabriel and his band of goons, what does he request? "Some goddamn hot chocolate and some pecan f****** pie." You couldn't find a better line in this film (although Gabriel referring to Rudy's stalling as "reindeer games" comes pretty close).
Besides the film utilizing intriguing settings, such as a large hotel and a spacious casino, with a nice sense of placement and activity, the film can be known for having some at least above average performances, particularly from Gary Sinise. Sinise works as a menacing villain, somewhat reminiscent of a Steve Buscemi kind of character with the straggly hair and the intimidating grimace. Affleck and Theron, for a brief time at least, have solid chemistry, even if their sex is more violence than sensual. Then there's appearances by Isaac Hayes (in a role stranger than the sex-obsessed, dirty-minded chef in a school cafeteria) and Danny Trejo that can guilty bring a smile to someone's face.
Reindeer Games is pure entertainment, briskly-paced, constantly moving, and very active in the suspense department. There are noticeable restraints on the material, given the crudely-strung together subject matter and purely ridiculous plot-points in some cases, but there's fun in the film waiting to be had for an absurdly optimistic viewer looking for a supremely different kind of Christmas picture. Come all ye faithful, I suppose.
Starring: Ben Affleck, Charlize Theron, Gary Sinise, Isaac Hayes, Danny Trejo, James Frain, Donal Logue, and Asthon Kutcher. Directed by: John Frankenheimer.