Reindeer Games (2000)

John Frankenheimer directs Ben Affleck, Gary Sinise and Charlize Theron in this heist thriller where a convict hooks up with his dead cellmate’s stunning lonely heart penpal only to discover her brother’s crew want him to help rob a casino. At Christmas.

A much maligned turn of the millennium Christmas film that due to reshoots somehow got released in February. It is a production with glaring problems that no quick reshoot can fix. There’s a double whammy of twists in the final act that feel implausibly forced. Affleck is in constant peril but often has his imminent death postponed for no other reason than a background character interrupts his assailant with a half hearted suggestion. And Affleck himself is far too smug and callow a screen presence at this juncture in his career to make a very ropey protagonist in any way relatable. You kinda wouldn’t mind seeing him dead by the halfway mark but those interruptions keep frustrating us, our patience and the plot’s believability. Yet if you accept this was never going to be Reservoir Dogs On Ice, it gets by as a late night schedule filler. It is dumbly watchable even at its dodgiest turns. The rest of the cast are game, for example Dennis Farina is in it as a Pit Boss and he is always a cracker. Charlize Theron looks fantastic, and is cutely convincing as the smitten siren who still wants to cuddle up to Affleck even as everyone around him is trying to end him. And the Santas rob a casino imagery is goofy and gun heavy enough that you are gripped once the talk stops and the taking starts. Reindeer Games – Let’s call it a draw.


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