The Good: Acting
The Bad: Characters, Plot twists, Editing
The Basics: A disappointment of predictable action and reversals that have been done far better in other films, Reindeer Games is a poorly written film that is a tough sell to watch.
Reindeer Games might have been a good, groundbreaking film . . . once. The fact is, I've seen everything in this film before. And the other places I've seen it, well, they were better. If you're considering seeing Reindeer Games save yourself the time and money and watch The Usual Suspects (reviewed here!) and Bound (reviewed here!) instead. They are worthy of your time for two simple reasons: they are well written and they have well-developed characters. This film has neither.
Reindeer Games follows the post-incarceration exploits of Rudy, whose cellmate, Nick is stabbed shortly before Rudy is paroled. Nick has been corresponding with Ashley and when Rudy is paroled, Ashley is waiting, so he assumes the persona Nick and begins a relationship with her. Well, one bad move deserves another and as soon as Ashley and "Nick" get comfy, Gabriel shows up. He's a fairly psychotic truck driver who is determined to rob a local casino that Nick used to work at. He and his band of thugs, including the loyalty-ambivalent Ashley, impress "Nick" to the job, oscillating frequently over their opinions on whether or not he truly is Nick.
Saying more about the plot would be pointless; the rest of the film is a series of reversals and "surprises" that the audience is supposed to be shocked by. Having seen The Usual Suspects and Bound nothing in this film surprises me, even the very last twist. The truth is, if you have most of a brain, it's not terribly shocking, it's fairly established patterns that are recognizable. That's not to say I knew the very last twist, but the truth is, when it came, I didn't feel surprised.
So, what does this film have going for it? All I came up with were the actors. Ben Affleck is very good as Rudy/Nick and Gary Senise is positively riveting as the psychopathic Gabriel. Charlize Theron does what she does best, I suppose, which means we see her breasts twice in the film. It's hard to say whether or not her acting was any good; her character's arc was possibly the most predictable. I say this having watched many films; the ending to The Game (reviewed here!) didn't surprise me either.
Outside the acting, there's not much. Most of the actors are playing flat characters. They're uninspired, often loathsome and most lack any real depth or interesting characteristics.
Annoyingly, the editing is a serious problem. I noticed no less than five instances when the film was poorly cut. That is, it's clear the producers were using two different takes of the same scene and the connection of the clips were not seamless. I'm not sure if this is a problem only in the director's cut (which I saw) or in the original print. Either way, it's distracting.
Ben Affleck's acting is the only real reason to see this film. It's a shame his character isn't as interesting as his acting. Here he tries his hand at action hero of sorts and he manages to pull it off, I suppose. Far better use of Affleck's talents are Dogma and Chasing Amy. Heck, even Mallrats ends up as a better use of time and talent than Reindeer Games.
For other works with Charlize Theron, be sure to check out my reviews of:
Arrested Development - Season Three
For other film reviews, please visit my Movie Review Index Page for an organized listing of all the films I have reviewed!
© 2012, 2002 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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