Reindeer Games (2000)
Review by Catalyst

Directed by John Frankenheimer
Written by Ehren Kruger
Starring Ben Affleck, Charlize Theron, Gary Sinise, Clarence Williams III, Dennis Farina

My Advice: Wait for MST3K.

The previews for this movie sufficiently let you know that it had just enough of a plot to lay the foundation for an action movie that shows Charlize Theron naked: Ben Affleck is in prison, writing letters to Theron. When he gets out, they get busy, and then her evil brother, played by Gary Sinise, busts in. It seems he's read the letters in question, and wants help ripping off a casino mentioned in the letters. All in all, you're expecting a high-adrenaline flick with minimal plot.

Having set successfully such low expectations, the movie proceeds to completely fail to meet them. See, although there isn't much of a plot, there are twists. For example...and you learn this from the get-go, so it's not a spoiler or even really a twist... it isn't Affleck's character that was writing to Theron from jail. It's his cellmate, who's getting out at the same time as him. All Affleck is expecting when he gets out is "hot chocolate and pecan pie." When his cellmate is killed in an attack on Affleck himself, our hero proceeds to pretend to BE his cellmate in order to get an entirely different type of pecan pie. So of course, when the brother breaks in, he doesn't know anything about this casino.

In other words, this movie starts to suck from early on. It's hard to have any sympathy for Affleck's low-life at all, though the rest of the movie, right down to the really cheesy post-climax sequences, tries very hard to let you know that he's an all right guy.

This is the kind of movie you expect to see from a low-budget studio. For all its attempts to have a plot that twists, it fails. I guess there are twists...I think three...but the plot is totally weak. It does indeed deliver the promised nude Theron, but it fails to deliver much in the way of action when she's not exposed on screen.

First of all, Affleck's character is supposed to be at least halfway intelligent, but he's not. I'd like to write off his initial justification for not admitting his deception before the excrement hits the cooling unit ("I'll let her be happy for the holidays") as absolute moral failure, but we're really supposed to buy that he's maintaining his rapist lie out of decency. After all, if he were lying, he wouldn't say it out loud with nobody around but the camera, right?

The movie doesn't get any better. I'm actually a fan of Affleck...and a huge fan of Sinise...but they don't have anything to work with at all. Characterization--or what passes for it--is ham-handed. There's one particular scene that is obviously thrown in to let you know, by their actions, that Affleck is really an All Right Guy and Sinise really is a Very Bad Man. You'll spot it. Dialogue--well, for a so-called action movie, there sure is a lot of it, and it's all bad. Plot Development--well, again, I must point out there's no plot. But they sure spent a lot of time trying to develop the one they thought was there. This was probably because the actual action sequence isn't very exciting, occurs very late in the film, and works miserably.

The Reviews Lab no-spoilers policy prevents me from fully dissecting this particular specimen, but suffice it to say that the stretches to which you are expected to put your willing suspension of disbelief are ridiculous, not to mention painful. Simply put: every character is stupid in this movie.

Dennis Farina has a very minor part as the Vegas casino manager who's been hired to manage the casino for the Native Americans. Of course, as he says rather a lot, you can't have a Vegas casino with several feet of snow on the ground. You almost feel sorry for him for the situation he's in, but nobody put a gun to his head and forced him to be in this movie.

If you absolutely must see Ms. Theron naked, catch this movie on cable. It happens early on, and once it's over, the film just goes to hell. It does happen briefly again later, but it's hard to enjoy it with the bad expositional dialogue going on around it. There's a plotless twist in this sequence, but it's so obvious that it's pointless.

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