Reindeer Games

The female of the species is deadlier than the male, even if she looks ravishing and incapable of any deceit. That's the vehicle Reindeer Games uses to get its story across, mostly succeeding (mostly).

The start of the film (depicting blood-soaked Santas sprawled in the snow) had me regretting my decision to see it, but as it progressed, I began to appreciate the slight character development and the contrived twists and turns. Perhaps it because I had nothing better to do that point. Rudy (Ben Affleck) and his cell mate Nick (James Frain) are about to be released from prison. Rudy is looking forward to a mug of hot chocolate with pecan pie, and watching baseball with his dad. Nick is dreaming of hooking up with Ashley (Charlize Theron), a girl who began a relationship with him while he was in prison. Before they can get out, Nick is killed in a cafeteria brawl and Rudy does what your average male would do: pretend to be Nick so he can get some with Ashley.

However, it turns out that Ashley's brother Gabriel (Gary Sinise), a gun-runner tired of running guns, believes that Rudy (posing as Nick) can help him rob an Indian casino in Upstate Michigan. Gabriel orchestrates a plan that involves the gang dressing up as Santa Clauses and Rudy ends up being the involuntary accomplice. Despite several attempts to escape, Gabriel continues to trust Nick and takes him along on the operation, leading to the inevitable result that is shown in the first few seconds of the film.

But appearances can be deceiving. None of the primary characters (with the exception of Rudy) are what they appear to be. Rudy begins to discover just that, and in the last few minutes of the film, we're treated to a whole bunch of incongruous plot twists which are surprising and insulting at the same time.

The script is witty at times, particularly with the whole "pow-wow safe" debacle. The acting is decent: Sinise is a great villain, but he has a script with poor dialogue to work with. Affleck and Theron are passable. The pacing is fairly tight. One scene from Reindeer Games that has imprinted in my mind is the one where Rudy tells Ashley that Nick really loved her. Her response is "who wouldn't?" Indeed.

Reindeer Games suffers from the "killer explaining set up in painstaking detail while hero figures out a way to escape" syndrome. But I do have to say, in all three of Ehren Kruger's scripts, I've not been able to guess the ending. Like the other films, the villain must rely on a huge number of absurd coincidences to occur for the planned outcome to be guaranteed. While that was excusable in Scream 3 (because that was the point of the series, and where I came closest to guessing the big surprise at the end), and Arlington Road (because it provoked thought about terrorism and government), it is harder to find any redeeming value here. I recommend waiting for it to be shown on TV.

Movie ram-blings || Ram Samudrala ||