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Digesting the lowest rung of pop culture so you don't have to!
Didn’t expect this one, did you? Celebrated director John Frankenheimer closed out his cinematic career with this turd of a movie. Ben Affleck, then a rising A-star (what a strange time, the late 90s), led a pretty solid cast, including Gary Sinise and Charlize Theron, in this holiday action-heist flick.
On the surface, Reindeer Games should have been a slam dunk, but it failed critically and financially. To borrow a phrase, what went wrong?
For starters, the script was lousy. This has every action cliché in the book (and then some). None of it is used in any new or original way. In it, we have Rudy (Affleck) who is released from prison and impersonates his dead (or is he?) cellmate to get with the girl, Ashley (Theron), he has been writing to. However, hijinks are afoot as Ashley’s criminal brother (Sinise) forces Rudy to rob a casino (see, the cellmate use to work there, so, you know…no problems could possibly arise). Now, Rudy has to try to save his not-girlfriend and get away from the bad guys who thinks he is someone else.
I suppose the movie does have some nice, light and comical bits (Affleck does know how to deliver witty banter), but the comedy is unbalanced by how not-a-comedy the rest of the film is. It slips back and forth instead of integrating the styles. The film has a lot of tonal problems as if it truly did not know what it wanted to be.
Making matters worse (or possibly better – it’s hard to tell), is that Reindeer Games has twist after twist after twist. And then there are twists within twists. It is utterly insane, and it makes an already needlessly complicated story just all that much more.
Honestly, it is as if a Hitchcock movie produced an offspring with a Shyamalan movie. And then that unholy creation mated with a Michael Bay film. That’s how nutty they go with the twists.
Now, as we all know, a lousy script and story does not mean that a movie will be destined to flop. Prometheus proved that point. However, this movie still bombed pretty badly. I have a theory on that. It was a movie that used the Christmas holiday as its backdrop pretty heavily. It was released in February. Who honestly wants to go see a Christmas movie in February? No one. Generally speaking, people do not want to be thinking about Christmas by then.
Now, I know what you are thinking. You are saying to yourself, “Nick, Die Hard was released in the summer, but that is kinda a Christmas movie the same way this is and that was very successful!” That is true; Die Hard was released in the middle of summer. But Die Hard was also lightning in a bottle, and not something that can be easily replicated.
Despite its massive flaws, I still kind of like Reindeer Games. I would not recommend this movie, but it is fun in a turn-off-your-brain and enjoy sort of way. I think the cast knew they were making a stinker and just decided to have some fun. Gary Sinise, in particular, seems to just be playing up his white-trash, tough-guy criminal. While perhaps not as over-the-top as Michael Sheen in Twilight, the same sentiment is there.
I have not seen this movie in years, and I doubt it would hold up very well. Perhaps, if I stumble upon it, I should give it another looksee.