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"Reindeer Games"

Directed by John Frankenheimer.
Written by Ehren Kruger ("Arlington Road"). 
Starring Ben Affleck, Gary Sinise and Charlize Theron.
Release Year:  2000 
Review Date:  2/25/00 


Spring fever is upon us!  This evening, upon returning home from the movie, I was about to write this review...and, then I got the mail.  Whoops!  I had three choices at this point:

  1. Write the review.

  2. Read (well, maybe "read" is the wrong word) the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue.

  3. Figure out if Heidi Klum really does weigh 100 pounds.

I went with 2), then 3), now 1).  This year's swimsuit issue is partially in 3-D (glasses provided), and it adds nothing to gratuitous T&A shots, but no matter.  Let's talk about the real issue at hand:  Klum.  I have decided that all men can be put into two categories:  those that think Heidi Klum is attractive, and those that don't.  I fall into the latter, and her picture with Evander Holyfield is not just scary, it is terrifying, as Klum shows off her 5'10", 100-pounds of muscle in a black and white picture.  Wow, is that girl thin!  Me, I like 'em thick--if you could get blown away by strong winds, what good are you going to be with me??  When a girl tells me "Justin, I think I'm putting on weight," nothing could turn me on more...when she asks "Am I getting fat?", I  respond "a little thicker means I'm a lot happier!"  (I save the "cushion" jokes for later, capiche?)  Now, mind you--I don't want them at Golden Corral every Friday night, but hey, people should be eating...and, I like to look at someone and not worry that they are missing meals.

The magazine's top four, in my mind:  Elsa Benitez, Shakara Ledard (her 3-D is hot), Joumana Kidd, Veronica Varekova.

Now, Charlize Theron could probably hold her own against the SI girls in this year's magazine, but when you are making movie salaries, you don't have time for modeling chump change.  Along with Ben Affleck and Gary Sinise, these three carry the bulk of "Reindeer Games," a heist thriller directed by "Ronin"-meister John Frankenheimer.  Thankfully, this movie is more "Ronin" than "The Island of Dr. Moreau," bad in every way that movies can be bad and another previous effort of Frankenheimer’s.  The story involves a grand-theft-auto convict named Rudy (Affleck) who is two days away from getting out of prison on parole along with his best friend Nicky (James Frain).  But, when Nicky is stabbed and killed during a prison riot in the cafeteria, Rudy decides that he should meet up with Ashley (Theron), a girl that has been Nicky's pen pal for the last six months, once he gets out on parole.  Once he hooks up with Ashley after his parole, things go south when Rudy comes in contact with Ashley's brother Gabriel (Sinise) and his gang of gun runners.  Acting the whole time as if he is Nicky, Rudy tries anything he can to avoid injury as the gang tries to hold up a Michigan casino on Christmas Eve.

As you can tell from just the description of all of this, twists and turns are commonplace through the script.  And I must admit, just when I thought I had figured it out, Frankenheimer flips the tables again.  It didn't hurt that the studio ingeniously uses deleted scenes from the movie in the trailer--much like the Samuel L. Jackson film "The Negotiator"--so that you think you know what is going to happen...but, they never show some of the scenes that you are expecting!  But, are surprises what make a good movie?  Unfortunately, no.  This movie is painfully slow in the early-going...really, until Sinise & company show up, things are rather dry and beyond Sinise, no one is very interesting.  The set-up of the heist isn't even very interesting and the romantic sub-plot (at least, in the first half of the movie) is not too hot either.

Ben Affleck has been in a lot of films now, and it is funny how much he wants to play Ben Affleck in all of his character portrayals.  His character in "Reindeer Games" is a lot more crafty than some of his past roles, but he looks no different than he did in Kevin Smith's movies, or "Armageddon" or "Good Will Hunting" or "Forces of Nature."  Maybe he needs to try an accent or something; just something a little bit out-of-the-ordinary.  Or, something like Gary Sinise:  if you take his characters from "Apollo 13" or "Snake Eyes" or "Forrest Gump", you can see that he is actually acting his way through those films, and he looks pretty cut in "Reindeer Games."  All of those roles make Sinise look different; Affleck's personality seems to be carrying him through all of his movies so far.  Hopefully, that will change, because even though he is very likable in "Reindeer Games", you just can't shake the impression that you've seen him do this *exact same part* in his other films.

And Theron?  She's good here, and her role gives her a lot to do for an action movie.  But, overall, the film just doesn't have the visual impact that "Ronin" did, and although the scenery here in the Upper Midwest is attractive, it didn't pull me in since the characters did not do likewise.  And, because there isn't much of a soundtrack (unless you count whistled Christmas songs), "the dead of winter" is an applicable phrase here.  Lots of characters yelling is left to make up for this, and sometimes the rage makes sense, but it mostly is the sheer lack of anything to do that keeps the film from breaking out.

Rating:  Matinee


Comments?  Drop me a line at


Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
© 1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09