Awfully Good: Reindeer Games
Grab some spiked eggnog and get in the spirit of the season with the rest of our Awfully Good holiday movies:
Fred Claus: Vince Vaughn is a dick to Christmas.
Santa Paws: St. Nick's dog scars children.
Puppetmaster vs. Demonic Toys: Corey Feldman vs. Farting Christmas Baby.
Ernest Saves Christmas: Jim Varney plays with Santa's sack.
Deck The Halls: Danny DeVito naked and incest jokes.
Christmas Evil: Mommy does more than kiss Santa Claus.
Santa Clause 3: Martin Short terrifies children.
Santa Claus Conquers The Martians: Santa battles cheap production values.
Jack Frost (1998): Michael Keaton is a dead snowman.
Jack Frost (1996): Frosty rapes Shannon Elizabeth.
Jingle All The Way: Arnold punches reindeer for toys.
Santa's Slay: St. Nick murders Fran Drescher.
Reindeer Games (2000)
Director: John Frankenheimer
Stars: Ben Affleck, Charlize Theron, Gary Sinise
Is there a plot?
A guy fresh out of prison understandably pretends to be his dead cellmate in order to have sex with Charlize Theron, but ends up getting caught up in a plot to rob an Indian casino on Christmas Eve.
What's the damage?
I'm sure when REINDEER GAMES came out in 2000 people were excited. Ben Affleck had yet to make BOUNCE, PEARL HARBOR or GIGLI, legendary director John Frankenheimer had just seen a return to form in RONIN, Ehren Kruger was the hot young screenwriter responsible for ARLINGTON ROAD, and Charlize Theron was still getting naked in pretty much every movie. But after REINDEER GAMES? Affleck had to reinvent himself a decade later as a director, Frankenheimer died, Kruger wrote TRANSFORMERS 2 and Theron needed to uglify herself in order to get recognition.
'Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house…
And yes, it’s that bad; bad enough for Kevin Smith to openly mock it in JAY AND SILENT BOB STRIKE BACK, and for Charlize Theron to continue apologizing for it to this day. Now I've been known to defend Ben Affleck more than I should, but he does suck quite heavily here, playing an ex-con strangely characterized by his obsession with Christmas food. And not only is Affleck a bad actor in the movie, but his character is an even worse actor within the context of the story. It’s like a multi-layered spiral of suck. The idea that anybody in a universe governed by sense and logic would continually believe Affleck's character Rudy was actually his cellmate Nick is so ridiculous that it makes me think REINDEER GAMES is secretly a FORREST GUMP-style movie about people with severe learning disabilities trying to pull off a heist.
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse…
Sure, Affleck doesn't help things much, but the unbelievably bad writing is the real culprit here. Kreuger's script tries too hard to be many things—a hip heist movie, a gritty and twisty thriller, a dark comedy, a heartwarming Christmas movie—and fails badly at all of them. There are just so many bizarre choices, weird characters and horrifically awful lines that I find it hard to believe the man continued to get work after this. (There's also enough "monologuing" in this movie to give Syndrome a stiffy.) Why does Affleck find a way to escape his captors, only to go out, get a gun, and sneak back in? How come we need to know that Danny Trejo's henchmen is attending community college? Why does the late Isaac Hayes show up for a cameo where his only line is, "There's monsters in the gelatin!" And is hot wiring a hotel door really the same as hot wiring a car?!
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care…
REINDEER GAMES is riddled with an equal number of plot twists and plot holes that borders on asinine. (You'll notice Affleck's sporadic narration only turns up when he needs to explain things they forgot to include in the script.) But nothing can prepare you for the movie's final shocker, which approaches Shyamalanian proportions. Ready for SPOILERS? The entire movie we get tossed around wondering who really knows what. (Does Theron know more than she lets on? Is Lieutenant Dan the real mastermind? Is the audience still awake?!) First, we learn that Theron really loves Affleck but is the bad guy's helpless sister; then come to find out she knew about the plan the entire time; and finally that she's actually boning her "brother" and conning Affleck. At this point, it's predictable but acceptable. However, the final act of the movie reveals that Gary Sinise himself was a patsy and the real brains behind the entire plan was…Ben Affleck's dead cellmate Nick, the man whose identity he stole and who had about two minutes of screen time at the beginning of the movie.
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there!
I will now attempt to explain Nick's master plan to see if you think it makes sense. This will be difficult:
- 1. Nick goes to jail, leaving behind his girlfriend (Theron).
- 2. Nick decides he wants to rob the gambling joint where he used to work as a security guard, but doesn't want to do it himself.
- 3. Nick spends the next five years telling cellmate Ben Affleck how amazing his new pen pal Ashley (Theron, using a fake name) is and all about their plans to be together when he gets out.
- 4. Meanwhile, "Ashley" starts sleeping with a random truck driver (Sinise) and convinces him to rob a casino. She fakes being a fake pen pal to Nick, claiming she'll scam the prisoner to fall in love with her and help her and Sinise rob the casino
- 5. Two days before their release, Nick pays another prisoner to pretend-stab him and then pays a guard to tell Affleck he died of his wounds.
- 6. Nick assumes that after all the years of hearing about how great Ashley is, Affleck will pretend to be him once he gets out of jail so he can meet her. This actually works.
- 7. Enter Sinise, now pretending to be Ashley's brother, who forces Affleck, who he thinks is Nick, in to helping them rob the casino
- 8. The majority of this dumb movie now happens. Nick sits back and waits for Affleck, who has no experience as a thief and knows nothing about the casino, to help successfully pull off the robbery.
- 9. Nick shows up at the end, after Affleck has defied all odds and managed to get the money, to steal the money
Charlize Theron as Christopher Nolan's Catwoman? Start the rumors!
Do you understand how dumb this is? There's about 400 variables here, each of which has about a 10% chance of working, that lead to Nick getting his money. Instead of robbing the place himself, he decides to spend years convincing somebody to convince somebody to convince somebody to do the work for him. What if the prison guard didn't accept his bribe? What if Affleck had gotten out of jail and decided he likes brunettes better and didn't go bang Theron? Or what if it all worked out but the actual robbery failed, as it likely would? That would be years of planning and waiting wasted. And now your girlfriend slept with two other guys for no reason.
"This whole movie was one giant Punk'd!"
But, this is a movie, so of course REINDEER GAMES ends with Ben Affleck surviving with all the money and walking through his hometown, putting thousands of dollars of cash in everyone's mailbox, which will definitely not draw attention to the fact that he just robbed a casino. Then the movie ends like a heartwarming family film, as Affleck, still wearing the bloodstained Santa suit he robbed and murdered people in, sits down to have the Christmas dinner with his family he's been jabbering about the entire movie. The final frame freezes on his smiling face as his narration says, "Like I said, I never was much for the holidays...until now." That's right; the entire film has been about Ben Affleck learning to love Christmas.
I hope you choke, Ehren Kruger.
Charlize Theron freaks out, Danny Trejo discusses the economy, and Ben Affleck's greatest hits.
1) A compilation of all the random funny parts of REINDEER GAMES that involve food.
2) Gary Sinise uses Ben Affleck as a dartboard. If you ever had to sit through FORCES OF NATURE, you'll probably enjoy this.
3) Santa roasting on an open fire…
You get both Charlize Theron and Ben Affleck's ass in an alarmingly graphic sex scene. God bless us everyone!
Play Along at Home!
Take a shot or drink every time:
- A holiday song is heard
- Someone mentions food
- Somebody's face is peculiarly close to the camera
- Dennis Farina won't go back to Vegas
Double shot if:
- Ashton Kutcher is onscreen
- Ben Affleck Ass is onscreen
Seen a movie that should be featured on this column? Shoot Jason an email and give him an excuse to drink.