REINDEER GAMES (2000)

DIRECTOR: John Frankenheimer
STARRING: Ben Affleck, Charlize Theron, Gary Sinise, Clarence Williams III, Danny Trejo, Dennis Farina, and others.
104 minutes
Rated: R (strong violence, language, and sexuality)
Available in videocassette and DVD. Also showing on various cable channels.

Reviewed by Cherie Jung

Two cons, both "short-timers," are cellmates. One has a gorgeous pen pal (Charlize Theron) and the other wishes he had a gorgeous pen pal. Life intervenes and Rudy Duncan (Ben Affleck) finds himself released from prison, where Ashley (the pen pal) waits for Nick Cassidy (Rudy's cell mate). Since Nick isn't going to show, Rudy decides to pretend to be Nick and spend a few harmless hours or days with Ashley. Then he plans to head home for some pecan pie and hot chocolate.

Unfortunately, Ashley has a sinister brother (Gary Sinise), who has a plan to rob a casino--the casino that Nick worked in as a security guard before he ended up in prison. Rudy who is pretending to be Nick has two choices. Confess he is really Rudy, which he tries to do, and die now or pretend to be Nick and die later. After several attempts to confess, Rudy decides to play along and die later, or try to escape. Things become even more complicated or silly as the movie progresses, depending upon your ability to suspend any sense of common sense that you might have. I'm not a violent person, but I would have shot and killed the Rudy character at least half a dozen times during the movie rather than drag him along for the final confrontation.

Don't get me wrong, I like Ben Affleck. He just is miscast in this particular movie. Gary Sinise steals the show early on and doesn't give it back until the very end of the picture. And Charlize Theron as eye-candy only goes so far.

There were several twists and turns, but not believable ones. I was not surprised by the final twist. By then, I didn't care what happened as long as the movie ended.

I enjoyed the prison "Jell-O" scene and the ending scene. The rest of the movie barely held my interest. The pacing was slow and at times tedious. If you can catch this movie on cable TV or borrow a copy from a friend who actually went out and bought it, then try that first. If not, check out the video stores for their sales of used copies. Our local video store was trying to unload -- I mean sell, hundreds of copies of this video and DVD.

There was one portion of the movie that caused me to wonder... I would love to know if the truck crash scene was done with models. It looked very fake to me, but my husband suggested it's so badly filmed that wouldn't it be funny if they really wrecked a big truck for the movie?

Bottom line, if you enjoyed the trailers, do yourself a favor and stop right there. It doesn't get any better than that. And if I recall, correctly, some portions of the trailers didn't make it into the actual movie.


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