12 Days of X-Mas: Reindeer Games
Reindeer Games is not a good movie. Every year there are no shortage of genuine Christmas classics to turn on and relive, and I always make sure to watch Reindeer Games because it's just something that doesn't get made often enough anymore. It's a confusing and weird total mess of a movie, but it had a budget of 36 million dollars and is a very hard "R" rating with what seems to be very little studio interference. It's the work of an auteur who turned what could have been a complete bore into an, at the very least, interesting and memorable clutter of a movie.
Legendary director John Frankenheimer's final theatrical film is a convoluted tale of crime and one man's insane quest to make it back home to his family for Christmas dinner. It's full of huge performances and bloody violence and has a plot that took me a few viewings to fully wrap my head around.
Ben Affleck gives one of the biggest performances of his career and Charlize Theron, James Frain, Dennis Farina, and most of all Gary Sinise all raise what they are doing to out crazy each other. Seriously, Gary Sinise goes so over the top that you just have to see it to believe it. It's Nicolas Cage levels of loud and wild.
Summarizing the plot of Reindeer Games feels like a fool's errand, but here goes. Rudy (Ben Affleck) and Nick (James Frain) are convicts two days away from release from prison. Nick has been corresponding with a woman named Ashley (Charlize Theron) who is waiting for him on the outside. A cafeteria incident leads to Nick getting stabbed to death, and Rudy sees this as an opportunity to impersonate Nick and date Ashley. The two do it and then Ashley's conman brother and his gang show up to threaten Rudy (thinking he's Nick) with a plot to rob the Casino that Nick used to work at. Despite Rudy's insistence that he is not Nick, he gets roped into the plan and has to find out a way to rob a casino he is completely unfamiliar with, lose his captors (who are not all as they seem), and get home for the holidays.
Of course, even within that nonsense, things are not all as they seem. Ever. The twists pile up fast in a giddy "But wait, there's more!" fashion, and by the time the finale rolls around things could not be more confusing. We find out that nearly every bit of total happenstance was planned and are forced to just accept that this impossible series of events was somehow coordinated. It's all really dumb, but it couldn't be more fun to watch unfold.
There's a whole lot of blood, bullets, bodies, explosions, and claustrophobic close ups in this crazy acid trip of a movie. There's legendary soul musician and actor Isaac Hayes screaming about monsters in the gelatin. Theres a number of surprisingly graphic sex scenes. There's the lamest torture scene in movie history, where Affleck is tied up and reacts to a couple of darts being thrown at him like he's being shot. There's even a few sloppy, awkward, and off-putting full mouth make outs between Charlize Theron and nearly everybody in the movie.
Reindeer Games is not your typical joyful Christmas affair. It's violent and dark as hell. There are no good guys, and the way-too-close way it's shot makes it a tough thing to sit through. The plot is an absolute mess. But I'd be lying if I said i don't find it completely entertaining.