Reindeer Games (2000) starring Ben Affleck, Charlize Theron, Gary Sinise, James Frain, Dennis Farina, Danny Trejo, Clarence Williams III directed by John Frankenheimer Movie Review

Reindeer Games (2000)   3/53/53/53/53/5

Ben Affleck as Rudy Duncan in Reindeer Games (2000)

Santa Claus Massacre

When the credits rolled on "Reindeer Games" or "Deception" as it is also known the feeling I had was of almost 2 hours wasted. Now you can say that of a lot of movies but I felt it more than ever after watching this because you can see the potential to be a darkly funny and sharp crime caper but it never manifests itself. Instead we get a crime caper which instead of becoming fun because it twists and turns all over the place becomes annoying especially when it throws the big twist at you which comes out of nowhere.

Having been cell mates Rudy Duncan (Ben Affleck - Boiler Room) knows Nick Cassidy (James Frain) very well and when Nick ends up killed in an attack just days before they are about to be released Rudy decides to pretend to be him so that he can get with Nick's pen pal girlfriend Ashley (Charlize Theron - The Cider House Rules). But it turns out Ashley's brother and his gang of gun runners are interested in Nick because he worked at a Casino and whilst Rudy tries to come clean that he is not Nick finds himself having to pretend to be Nick and aid them in robbing a casino he knows little about.

Gary Sinise as Gabriel in Reindeer Games (2000)

As "Reindeer Games" starts we witness a crime scene, Santa's dead, in fact several Santas are dead either shot or gone through the windshield of a car and it immediately feels like we have a dark, funny and clever movie on our hands which will build to the Santa Claus Massacre. Unfortunately we don't, it maybe at times dark and occasionally funny but it is by no means clever as we watch Rudy end up over his head and pretending to be Nick. It is a case of serving up a lot of twists at us as Rudy tries to explain he is not who they think he is and then going along with their plans all the time trying to escape. And then we get the big twist as the truth is revealed, a big twist which like the proverbial rabbit in the hat has appeared from nowhere.

The trouble is that "Reindeer Games" has potential, any movie which starts with the aftermath of a Santa Claus Massacre is eye grabbing but it never finds its rhythm. Basically through some weak writing and direction it never manages to keep hold of your attention, lacking the sharpness and wit to bring it to life. It is a real shame because all the pieces are there, the twists are nice but never delivered properly and both a sex scene and the various action scenes feel too routine.

Now the one thing which for me did work was the casting, Gary Sinise is brilliant as bad guy Gabriel and Charlize Theron delivers innocent, sweet, sexy and dangerous as Ashley, an intoxicating mix. Even Ben Affleck works for me as Rudy the good guy in all this chaos but his character is poorly written. And that is the thing again there is some good elements to these characters but they are not complete and end up disappointing because they don't quite have the sharpness about them needed to make this work.

What this all boils down to is that "Reindeer Games" isn't a bad movie but it is a blah one and a disappointing blah one at that. It has the potential to be darkly funny and dangerous but it never comes to life which after the opening which sees several dead Santas is a disappointment.