Reindeer Games

Nothing else brings in spring like a movie about Christmas. Reindeer Games is another movie relegated to the early year wasteland, undoubtedly delayed from a Christmas release. Everything about the movie screams Christmas, from the Santa Claus suits and Christmas decorations to characters humming Christmas songs. And like many Christmas presents, it is disappointing after the unwrapping. Reindeer Games tries to take viewers through many twists of plot and humorous dialogue falls flat on most occasions.

The first twist comes early in the movie, when Rudy Duncan (Ben Affleck, Dogma, 200 Cigarettes) switches places with his dead cellmate, Nick (James Frain, Titus, Elizabeth). Throughout their sentence, Nick corresponded with Ashley (Charlize Theron, The Cider House Rules, The Astronaut's Wife), a beautiful woman who waited for Nick's release before they could spend time together. All Nick talked about was spending time with Ashley, so when Rudy left, he pretended to be Nick, since she had never seen Nick's picture. Ashley's homicidal brother Gabriel (Gary Sinise, The Green Mile, Mission to Mars) immediately horns in on their alone time. It seems Nick worked for an Indian casino, and Gabriel and his gang want Nick's help in robbing it. Rudy tries to tell Gabriel he is not Nick, but Gabriel threatens death, so Rudy must play along.

Reindeer Games falters due to director John Frankenheimer and writer Ehren Kruger. Frankenheimer (Ronin, George Wallace) is a talented director when it comes to big bang special effects, and this movie is no exception. Sadly, Reindeer Games does not call for that many explosions, so those with short attention spans need to focus on Kruger's script. Kruger's other recent projects ranged from bad (Arlington Road) to good (Scream 3). Reindeer Games falls somewhere close to the former. Kruger's love of twists and turns in the plot worked well in Scream 3, but are tedious and drawn out here. The only thing left to focus on are the characters, who, for the most part, are one-dimensional. Rudy is the most complex, but engenders no sympathy from the audience. His original plan upon release was to go home, watch bowl games with his father, and eat leftovers for six months. After his best friend and cellmate died, he decides instead to have sex with Nick's pen pal. The acting is mediocre, with the exception of Theron, who after slowly rising to decent roles, slinks back to her 2 Days in the Valley vixen stereotype. The twists come fast and furious as the ending nears, but by then, no one cares. Unless the onset of boredom seems appealing, don't play in this Reindeer Game.

Haro Rates It: Not That Good.
1 hour, 57 minutes, Rated R for strong violence, language, and sexuality.

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