February 26, 2000 -- "Reindeer Games" is a movie about a heist gone wrong and it is a movie plot gone horribly wrong constructed by a Hollywood system bankrupt of new ideas.
The basic story has a convict, Rudy, (played by Ben Affleck of "Dogma") impersonating his dead cellmate in order to get it on with his dead cellmate's pretty pen pal, Ashley (played by Charlize Theron "The Astronaut's Wife"). After making whoopee with Ashley, her brother, Gabriel, (Gary Sinise of "The Green Mile") and his menacing friends show up to grab Rudy and tell him he has to help them rob a casino, or else they will kill him. They will also kill him, it turns out, if he tells them he really isn't the convict they think he is and he has no inside information on the casino.
The real plot is actually a lot more complicated than this. So complicated, so filled with deceptions and double-deceptions, in fact, that it could not possibly work. For one thing, none of the characters had ever pulled off an armed robbery. If the plan did work, it would take incredible luck to pull off the heist. We're talking about the sort of luck where a miniature black hole appears out of the cosmos a swallows up a meteorite that was about to fall out of the sky and wipe out your car as you are driving down the road.
For instance, Rudy tries to explain he's not the guy who knows about the casino. The bad guys threaten to kill him, but don't. He tries to escape. the bad guys threaten to kill him again, but don't. The bad guys find out he knows almost nothing about the casino, making him worthless to them. Once again, they threaten to kill him, but don't. They keep putting it off, and putting it off again, for no particular reason, other than to keep the balky plot going. When we finally get to the end of the film, when we find out what is really going on, it was so ludicrous, my mouth dropped open and I groaned at the utter audacity of the story and the the level of stupidity to which the plot had fallen. It was almost like a parody of a caper film, but that would have required wit and intelligence.
If all else fails, there are usually action sequences to carry this kind of movie along. This film does not have enough action to carry it. Too often the film stops the action for a bad dialogue break. The characters don't have anything interesting or believable to say to each other. Gary Sinise has a nice little soliloquy about the dreariness of being a trucker, but mostly he just yells and looks menacing. Then there are the endless squabbles about the big casino robbery. None of the dialogue rings true, the action sequences are not compelling and just when you think it can't get any worse, it does.
The real mystery about this movie is how so many talented people got roped into this project. Ben Affleck doesn't have to make this kind of film, and neither do Charlize Theron or Gary Sinise. John Frankenheimer is one of the great directors of all time ("The Manchurian Candidate"). His last film, "Ronin" is about 20 times better than this one. Where did it all go wrong? It is bloody and violent. It has gratuitous nudity. It has no heart. It has no soul. It has no brain. It has no redeeming values at all. It represents the worst the Hollywood system has to offer. This movie rates an F.
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