REINDEER GAMES: DIRECTOR'S CUT
Review by Gordon Justesen
Affleck, Gary Sinise, Charlize Theron, Dennis Farina, James Frain, Clarence Williams III
Director: John Frankenheimer
Audio: English Dolby Digital 5.1, French Dolby Digital 5.1
Video: Widescreen 2.35:1 Anamorphic Transfer
Studio: Disney/Dimension Home Video
Features: See Review
Length: 104 Minutes
Release Date: March 27, 2001
John Frankenheimers Reindeer Games was a much critically panned action
thriller. From my point of view, it is a very noteworthy, highly entertaining movie,
filled with sharp, in-your-face twists that are sure to surprise you. It works very well,
also because the movies director is a veteran of suspense movies filled with tension
and surprises. Frankenheimers last movie, Ronin,
was an expertly crafted action thriller which contained so many high-speed car chases,
that youd never believe that it was directed by a man in his seventies, which is how
old Frankenheimer is. Reindeer Games
doesnt have as many chases, but the film creates tension with a keep-you-guessing
kind of plot, helped by some fantastic performances from the cast.
The movie stars the always
eager to charm Ben Affleck, of Mallrats and Phantoms fame, as Rudy Duncan. Rudy is currently
serving time in prison for grand theft auto, and he is very much looking forward to his
upcoming parole. His cellmate Nick (James Frain) also has parole ahead for him, and a
beautiful woman waiting for him when hes released. While in prison, Nick established
a romantic connection with a woman named Ashley through letters, as part of a sort of
convict-pen-pal program. All Rudy wants is to get home to spend Christmas with his family,
enjoy a hot mug of hot chocolate, and a piece of pecan pie. Then two days before the
convicts release, a riot breaks out in the cafeteria, and Nick is stabbed and killed
by a fellow inmate, sacrificing himself for Rudy.
Come his day of release, Rudy
does come across Ashley (Charlize Theron), who is eagerly waiting outside the prison gate.
Rudy, who is struck by the womans beauty, assumes Nicks identity; having
already known much about Ashley through the letters Nick read to him. The two immediately
hit it off, much to Rudys surprise, but it ends up going as far downhill as it can
for Rudy. Ashleys psychopathic brother Gabriel (Gary Sinise) crashes in on the two
at their hotel room and insists on using the convict to help him and his team of thugs rob
a local casino. The reason for this, the real Nick was previously employed at this
particular casino before going in to the joint, and since Rudy is claiming himself to be
Nick, Gabriel thinks he can use the ex-con as bait to take the place down. So in short,
Rudy has some serious obstacles to overcome, such as the fact that Gabriel and his crew
have never done a single robbery.
The screenplay is by Erhen
Kruger, whose other writing credits include Scream 3
and Arlington Road. Krugher loads this
story with sharpness and a razor sharp edge, and boasts an endless supply of plot twists.
There are more surprises in the last half-hour of Reindeer
Games than your average action-thriller. Some of them may not be totally believable,
but this is strictly popcorn entertainment, so any twist will do for me. Also by that
point of the movie, so much has happened, that I would accept just about any ironic twist,
no matter how impossible it might seem. In its own strange way, Reindeer Games is a little daring in that using
Of all that was panned of the
movie, the most notable was that of Ben Afflecks performance. Critics simply
didnt buy him as an action hero. I like Affleck in just about everything he does,
and I found him to be very convincing in his role. I wouldnt consider his character
as a macho kind of guy, but hes simply a guy caught in extraordinary circumstances,
and does his best to get himself out of danger and win back his freedom, which he aimed
for at the beginning of the movie. Gary Sinsie is an actor you can always rely on,
especially when it comes to portraying villains. Although Gabriel is more of a clueless
psycho, Sinise is able to maintain a vicious mannerism in Gabriel, which is believable
throughout the movie.
Much credit, though, should go
to John Frankenheimer. I dont think theres any other filmmaker older than him
who can still make movies that are intense, pulse pounding, and viscerally exciting. That
is exactly the kind of movie that Reindeer Games
Re-issues of DVDs, especially in a Directors Cut format, are somewhat hard to predict in terms of how they compare to the original disc. In the case of Reindeer Games, this directors cut release proves far better than its previous version, which is a very rare case. The fact that this edition includes simply the anamoprhic widescreen presentation, instead of cramming the standard version in addition as on the earlier version, is probably the reason why this disc is the one that soars. The picture quality is thoroughly clear and strikingly sharp, and the darkly lit scenes, which illumed with flaws in the previous edition, are in terrific form as well.
As far as I can tell, the audio transfer isnt that much different from the standard Reindeer Games disc. Still, it remains a terrific, bass-boosting audio track, put to Dolby Digital perfection. The suspenseful musical score by Alan Silvestri, and the various action scenes, such as the climatic gunfight in the casino, payoff enormously well.
The fist issuing of Reindeer Games contained a moderate amount of extras, but the Directors Cut adds a few more unique ingredients. In addition to the movie itself, which runs twenty minutes longer than the theatrical version, theres an entirely new commentary track by John Frankenheimer, which was created for the sole purpose of explaining to the viewer why this version of the movie succeeds and the original one does not. Also included on the disc is a compilation of scenes from the theatrical version that were cut from or altered in the movie, as well as a featurette and a trailer for the movie.
Reindeer Gamesdefinitely packs a punch in the thrill-a-minute genre. If you are fans of movies that keep you guessing till the end or if you like any of the lead actors, then you are likely to have an enjoyable blast.