Frankenheimer Games

Reindeer Games


Reindeer Games [Director’s Cut](2000) a.k.a. Wild Christmas a.k.a. Deception: Breakdown by Kain424

A con man finds himself in the wrong place at the wrong time, forced to assist in the robbery of a casino on Christmas Eve.


Reindeer Games should be remembered as one of the holiday greats, along with Die Hard and The Long Kiss Goodnight.  Sure, it’s not quite a masterpiece, but it’s definitely way better than most reviewers give it credit for.  At the time of it’s release, Ben Affleck simply wasn’t what people were looking for in an Action hero.  To be fair, he still isn’t.  But then again, at no point is he trying to be during the duration of the movie.

The film follows a seemingly simply story, along the lines of movies like The Sagebrush Trail and Con Air, where an essentially innocent man must play the part of a criminal and undermine the company he keeps in order to save the day.  Here, however, our hero is hardly a hero.  In what could be considered a flaw by many (though I think it’s a spark of genius), the protagonist isn’t out to help anyone but himself for much of the picture.  He just wants to save his own ass.  In an era of overblown heroism where supermen are trying to save the world or large groups of innocent people, this comes as a breath of fresh air.  We go along on an adventure with several truck-driving gunrunners as they rob a casino dressed as Santas.  It’s fucking awesome.

Santa guns

Some people think it’s a shame that John Fankenheimer’s last theatrically released film was Reindeer Games.  I think it’s a great piece of work from the director of such underrated Action classics as Black Sunday and The Challenge.  This guy was great and this film should be remembered as one of his best efforts.  We get guns, explosions, tits, and gore.  A witty script is placed on top of all that, so what the fuck else do you want?  While the Action never charges into heart-thumping, edge-of-your-seat madness, it’s not really trying to be that type of movie.  Frankenheimer’s films are never really appreciated at the time of their release and I would vote that this one deserves a revisit.  Perhaps once a year.

The movie is shot with a pounding self-assurance, occasionally narrated in a noir fashion by Affleck but ultimately given an abundant holiday flair by its Christmas colors, themes and Alan Silvestri’s excellent thrilling and cheerful score.  The plot is edgy and smart, with writer Ehren Kruger doing his best Shane Black impression on the screenplay.  I usually hate Kruger’s stuff, but here he absolutely shines, giving every character a complete personality.  Everyone is interesting, and though ultimately unlikable, they are all thoroughly entertaining.

Danny trio

This is also because not only are our main characters being played by some decent actors (Gary Sinise, Charlize Theron), but a whole host of cameos are paraded through to give life to the smaller parts (Isaac Hayes, Dennis fuckin’ Farina, Ron Jeremy).  Danny Trejo is in this!  That being said, Affleck still steals the show as the flick’s lead.  But more on him later.

Sinister Sinise

I usually hate twist endings, but this one works for the most part.  Our lead character, a former con man and car thief who really only wants some hot chocolate and some pecan fucking pie, lets his guard down just once and gets played.  And when everyone is playing everyone, we are forced to fall back on our initial instincts of self-preservation, just like our hero.  When a script makes you understand exactly where the protagonist’s train of thought is, that’s when a movie really works.  Reindeer Games isn’t an epic and it won’t change your life.  But it’s nice to have a Christmas film that admits that sometimes the only thing that really matters is yourself.



Ben Affleck is Rudy Duncan is “Nick”

Rudy, as played by Affleck, is pretty much a douchebag.  You could argue he may have a heart of gold, but by the film’s end, he probably will never trust another person ever again.  He’s a carjacker by trade and a liar by circumstance.  In one of the film’s best twists of irony, it’s only when trying to be a decent person that he ends up doing the wrong thing.

But he remains a self-aware smart ass through and through.  This makes him likable, despite any of his transgressions.  Affleck’s a natural for such roles.  A born jerk.  And if being a prick makes him less likable to most audiences for much of the movie, he can at least claim to be vindicated by the story’s end.


Santa Corpse

Though the bodycount is fairly low, I would say every death in the film is of high quality.  You definitely get bang for your buck with the multiple gory deaths from gunshots, vehicular homicide, and a couple of great explosions.  There’s even a nice burning man stunt thrown in for good measure.


Nick's legs

I’ll go with Nick’s death.  After being dumb enough to trap a car thief in a car and try to stage his death, Nick gets one of the more violent ends experienced in Action cinema.

Nick's Explosion

After Rudy hotwires the vehicle, he reverses it into Nick, completely crushing his lower body.  Rudy then sends Nick, and the truck he is bleeding to death inside of, plummeting over a cliff and down into a gorge.  A glorious holiday explosion ensues.


Reindeer Gays

Nick and Rudy share a prison cell where they talk about their feelings and do push-ups.  That might not mean anything, but Affleck does say later that he “had better sex in prison.”  Good stuff.


Other than the message that women cannot be trusted, I don’t think there’s anything too misogynistic about Reindeer Games.  I mean, it’s not like they used a pair of tits to get people to buy tickets to the movie.



The robbery has been going horribly, with many of the crew dead or wounded.  The thieves get Rudy ready for execution, but he bluffs his way out, telling them of a “Pow-Wow” safe hidden behind the casino owner’s liquor cabinet.  The casino owner (Dennis Farina) opens the safe, but instead of a secret stash of millions, pulls out a submachine gun and begins mowing down everyone in the room.  Pow “Wow”, indeed.

pow wow

After intimidation, threats of violence aimed at his girl, and even torture, Rudy agrees to assist the film’s villains in their endeavor.  Their leader, played by Gary Sinise, gets ready to lay down his plan.  He needs Rudy to tell them everything he knows about the casino they plan to rob.  In classic bad guy parlance, he tells Rudy to “start singing.”  Ever the smart-ass, Rudy literally begins to sing.

Little Drummer Ben

“I have no gifts to bring, pa-rum pum-pum pum.”


Just go home for Christmas.  Skip the charities.

[THE CHECKLIST: 14 outta 25]

[  ] Athlete(s) Turned “Actor”
[X] Clinging To The Outside Of A Moving Vehicle
[  ] Crotch Attack
[  ] Dialogue Telling Us How Bad-Ass The Main Character(s) Is
[  ] Ending Featuring An Ambulance, A Blanket or A Towel
[  ] Factory/Warehouse
[X] Giant Explosion(s)
[X] Heavy Artillery
[X] Improvised Weapon(s)
[X] Macho Mode(s) Of Transportation [A semi truck is pretty macho]
[X] Main Character Sports Facial Accessory(s) {sunglasses and a fake beard]
[  ] Manly Embrace(s)
[  ] Notorious Stunt-Man Sighting
[  ] Passage(s) Of Time Via Montage
[  ] Politically Fueled Plot Point(s)
[X] Senseless Destruction Of Property
[X] Shoot Out(s) and/or Sword Fight(s)
[X] Slow-Motion Finishing Move(s)/Death(s)
[X] Stupid Authoritative Figure(s)
[X] Substance Usage and/or Abuse
[X] Tis The Season
[X] Torture Sequence(s)
[  ] Unnecessary Sequel
[  ] Vehicle Chase(s)
[X] Vigilante Justice

Santa Machine Gun

Now I have a machine gun.

Ho! Ho! Ho!