|Directed by||John Frankenheimer|
|Written by||Ehren Kruger|
|Music by||Alan Silvestri|
|Distributed by||Miramax Films|
|Box office||$32.2 million|
Reindeer Games (alternatively titled Deception) is a 2000 American action crime thriller film directed by John Frankenheimer in his final feature directorial outing before his 2002 death. It stars Ben Affleck, Gary Sinise, Charlize Theron, Dennis Farina, James Frain, Donal Logue, Danny Trejo and Clarence Williams III.
Reindeer Games was released by Miramax Films on February 25, 2000. It received generally negative critical reception and was a box office failure, grossing $32 million against a budget of $42 million.
Nick Cassidy and Rudy Duncan are cellmates in a prison in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula two days away from release. Nick plans to meet up with a young woman named Ashley Mercer, whom he has been corresponding with while Rudy simply wants is to go back to his family in Sidnaw for Christmas. During a prison fight, Nick is killed with a shiv. Rudy gets released and, wanting to get with Ashley, assumed Nick's identity. They go to a diner to get to know each other, then they have sex in a cabin.
The two are soon kidnapped by Gabriel, Ashley’s brother and a gang leader, in their cabin. He tells Rudy that the gang, composed of Pug, Merlin, and Jumpy, will rob the casino that Nick used to work at, using Nick's knowledge of the place. Rudy tries explaining that he is not Nick, but Ashley believes that he is. She reveals that she wrote to him knowing that Gabriel was going to force Nick to assist in the robbery. Rudy, knowing that he is useless to the gang as himself, is forced to continue his ruse.
Using the information from the real Nick’s prison cell stories, Rudy is able to devise a robbery plan and informs Gabriel that the biggest loot is hidden inside a safe in the manager Jack Bangs's office, calling it the "PowWow safe". Gabriel shows Rudy a hand-drawn map of the casino, but Rudy claims that the casino has been remodeled. They go to the casino the next day, with Rudy dressed as a cowboy, to snoop around to see any changes. He is almost caught by Nick's old boss, Jack Bangs, but Rudy escapes by impersonating a college student by switching clothes with him in the bathroom. Merlin finds out from a cigarette girl that the casino was never remodeled and has been the same since it opened. Rudy takes Ashley on the run with him as Gabriel and his thugs pursue them to a frozen lake, firing guns at them. One of the bullets causes Ashley to fall through the ice, forcing Rudy to jump in and rescue her. Gabriel and the thugs pull them out and are then spotted by an ice fisherman, whom Gabriel kills after getting suspicious.
Frustrated by Rudy's escape attempt, Gabriel throws darts at him to get some answers and rants at him about his life as a truck driver, knowing that Jack doesn't know anything about the planned robbery. He decides to give Rudy a second chance at drawing the map. Later, Rudy breaks out of his hotel room and stumbles upon Gabriel and Ashley in the pool area, learning that they are lovers and not siblings, but he is forced to return to his room when he is almost caught by Merlin. The group robs the casino, each dressed as Santa Claus. Rudy, forced to take part in the robbery with only a squirt gun, hides the fact that he knows Ashley’s secret. The robbery doesn't go according to plan due to the confusion of inaccurate details of Rudy's plan. As a result, Pug gets killed in the casino's count room.
Ashley drives into the casino and confesses to Rudy that she is in on the heist. Everyone meets in the manager's office. Gabriel introduces Rudy as Nick to Jack, but the manager recognizes him only as the cowboy from earlier and not as Nick. Rudy finally reveals his true identity. Gabriel, furious at Rudy’s deception, spares him for a moment when he demands to know where the "PowWow" safe is. When Jack opens the safe, he grabs guns from inside and kills Jumpy as the rest flee. Jack dies during the shootout while Rudy kills Merlin. Rudy is then grabbed out the back door by Gabriel and Ashley who tie him up in their 18-wheeler truck.
The two plan to drive Rudy off the edge of a cliff in a burning vehicle with some of the money so that officials will assume that the stolen money had been burned. After accidentally revealing too much information during an argument with Rudy, Ashley shoots and kills the now suspicious Gabriel. Shortly after, Nick appears, revealing he staged his death at the prison. It is revealed that Ashley's real name is Millie Bobeck and was aware of Rudy's true identity the whole time. He learns that the two had collaborated to rob the casino using Rudy, Gabriel, and Gabriel's gang. After they tie Rudy to the steering wheel to drive off the cliff, Rudy produces a knife he had gotten earlier, cuts his bindings, hot wires the car, sets it to reverse and crushes Nick's legs. A shocked Millie desperately attempts to fire at him, but Rudy rams the fiery car into her and dives out as the car and Millie go over the cliff, killing her. Nick, who is still alive, tries to convince Rudy that they can share the money, but Rudy locks him in the truck and also sends it over the cliff with Nick trapped inside.
With the whole ordeal finally over, Rudy picks up the stolen cash and begins distributing it in mailboxes he comes across on the way home to his family, where he eats Christmas dinner with them.
- Ben Affleck as Rudy Duncan / Nick Cassidy
- Gary Sinise as Gabriel 'Monster' Mercer
- Charlize Theron as Ashley Mercer / Millie Bobeck
- Dennis Farina as Jack Bangs
- James Frain as Nick Cassidy
- Clarence Williams III as 'Merlin'
- Donal Logue as 'Pug'
- Danny Trejo as 'Jumpy'
- Isaac Hayes as 'Zook'
- Gordon Tootoosis as Old Governor
- Dana Stubblefield as 'The Alamo'
- Lonny Chapman as Old Timer
In addition, some brief appearances include Ashton Kutcher, then starring in the sitcom That '70s Show, as a college student, while porn star Ron Jeremy (credited under his real name, Ron Hyatt) plays a prison inmate.
The film was screened to test audiences who had a mixed response. This resulted in additional editing and some scenes being re-shot; the release date was pushed back from Christmas 1999 to February 2000.
The theatrical cut of the film was released on DVD in the US on August 8, 2000, and included an audio commentary by director John Frankenheimer. An extended director's cut, running 124 mins, was released on DVD in the US on March 27, 2001, including a new second audio commentary by Frankenheimer and additional deleted and alternate scenes. The Director's Cut was released on Blu-Ray on March 6, 2012.
On a $42 million budget, the film grossed $32.2 million worldwide.
Reindeer Games received generally poor reviews and was not a commercial success. The review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes reported that 25% of critics gave the film a positive review, based on a sample of 88 reviews, with an average score of 4.2/10. The site's critical consensus reads: "Despite a decent cast, subpar acting and a contrived plot disappointed reviewers". Metacritic, which assigns a weighted average score to reviews, gave a film rating of 37 out of 100, based on 33 critics, indicating "generally unfavorable reviews". Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "C–" on an A+ to F scale.
In a 2007 interview with Esquire, Charlize Theron said that she considered this movie as the worst film she ever did, saying that "Reindeer Games was not a good movie, but I did it because I loved John Frankenheimer". A CNN review said: "Reindeer Games isn't at the bottom of his creative barrel, but it's close".
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