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Reindeer Games (Blu-ray Review)

I want to spotlight a single scene of Reindeer Games.  At one point in this film, Ben Affleck’s character is attempting to escape his situation.  He is in a casino and his plan is to enter a bathroom and exchange clothes with the person in there with him (weirdly, the person he switches with is a young Ashton Kutcher in a nothing role).  One of the men keeping their eye on Affleck’s character enters the bathroom, immediately sees the guy who has switched clothes, only to be shoved, from the side, by Affleck.  Apparently his plan was to gain merely a couple seconds head start, before attempting to escape.  It is a completely ludicrous scene, which is one instance that reflects how ludicrous the film is as a whole.  Reindeer Games is certainly an awful film, but it is also awfully entertaining.  Continue on to see how the Blu-ray fares.

Film: 

After a somber opening segment, which depicts the corpses of several men dressed in Santa outfits, the film jumps to three days earlier.  Rudy (Ben Affleck) is serving time in prison for grand theft auto.  His cellmate is Nick (James Frain), who has been sending love messages to a woman, Ashley (Charlize Theron), waiting for him on the outside.  Nick is unfortunately killed in a prison uprising, which leads to Rudy deciding to essentially take his place upon his release, letting Ashley think he is the one who has been writing the letters.  Despite Ashley being beautiful and Rudy thinking he has made a good choice, it is soon revealed that this was one of the worst decisions possible.

As it turns out, Ashley’s brother, Gabriel (Gary Sinise), and his gang of criminals have developed a plan to use the knowledge they believe the real Nick had, which was related to the casino he used to work at.  Because Gabriel is aware of the real Nick’s past job, he has planned out a heist, which will take place on Christmas Eve, and requires Nick’s knowledge of the casino layout in order to pull it off.  Given that Rudy is way in over his head at this point, he’ll need to do what he can to hopefully con his way out of this deadly situation.

For whatever reason, acclaimed director John Frankenheimer, who made a career out of directing well-received action/suspense thrillers, decided to get behind the camera for this film and create pretty awful results.  The film is terrible.  It features a horrible story, inconsistent pacing, strange tonal shifts, over-the-top performances, and terrible twists in the narrative, which require enough suspension of disbelief to support a bridge on.  I honestly have no idea who is at fault for this film being so bad, but it must have certainly been a collaborative process.

Having not seen it until just recently, I was not surprised, having looked into various facts about this film, to find that it received horrible reviews during its initial release and has had Charlize Theron come out and say that she considers it her worst film.  It is the kind of film where ideas must have existed in a script, but everyone decided to go the wrong way in achieving a worthwhile result.  I can credit Frankenheimer with some moments of suspense/excitement, if I had to isolate some aspects of this film and think of some of the creativity involved, but those moments are few and far between and don’t do much to elevate the film as a whole.

With that out of the way, despite the fact that Reindeer Games is indeed a horrible film, I had a ton of fun watching the film and acknowledging how bad it was.  The opening scene I described literally required me to pause the film so I could stop and comprehend what just occurred with my friend, who was watching it (suffering through it) with me.  The nonsensical actions occurring combined with the strong cast dialing up the ridiculousness certainly made this film very watchable, despite being such a bad movie.

Is there more to elaborate on?  This film came out at a time when Ben Affleck was a big star and making some poor film choices.  I like Affleck in general; he’s a funny dude and has since become a confident director, whose films I look forward to seeing.  That said, this film was one of those prime examples of why his star began to fade in the early 2000s.  Reindeer Games is a bad, sloppy movie that does little to inspire good thoughts, beyond my own acknowledgment of it being a terrible, yet kinda entertaining film to watch.

Video:

Fitting of the film, the video quality present on this Blu-ray disc is pretty bad.  I know it is bad because unlike some transfers, where I really have to try hard to find the various bits of detail in order to properly assess how good the film looks, the picture image for Reindeer Games sticks out pretty clearly and certainly not in a good way.  Besides some of the better lit scenes indoors, a majority of the film is either set outside or in darker settings and as a result, the image is never that good.  The words murky and dark are good ones to use in describing the look of this film.  The textures never really seem well defined either, nor do the black levels.  I can imagine this is better than the previous DVD releases, but it still is not saying much in regards to the HD transfer of this film onto Blu.

Audio: 

At least the audio quality fares much better for this film.  The disc has been fitted with a lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack, which is a decent enough way to listen to all the crappy dialogue that these characters spew throughout the film, along with the various jolts in the soundtrack that evoke supposed terror, and of course the large action moments.  The strong audio is more noticeable during outdoor scenes, when the various bits of action or dialogue are accompanied by the sounds of the environment mixing in as well.  Easily the highlight of this disc.

 

Extras: 

Reindeer Games features a collection of extras that do enough, I guess, to add on to the experience of watching this film.  The features are unfortunately not presented in HD nor do they delve into anything particularly interesting, as opposed to being just fluff, but at least there is a commentary for those curious.  I should also mention that this is the “Director’s Cut” of the film, though I never saw the original cut, so I couldn’t quite state a preference.

Features Include:

Audio Commentary by Director John Frankenheimer

Behind-The-Scenes Featurettes

Original Theatrical Cut Alternate Scenes

Trailer

Summary:

I cannot fault the film too much, simply because it gave me some great enjoyment in the way that it managed to be so terrible, it was entertaining.  Reindeer Games is hardly a good film, but it is a really stupid one, which manages to be fun to watch if you are in the right mood.  This is one of those rare cases where I have given the film a poor rating, because it earns it, but I don’t feel bad for having watched it.  That said, the Blu-ray is pretty meh.  While the audio is fine, the picture quality is of pretty poor quality.  The smattering of extras was decent, but still nothing to really care too much about.  Not the best investment overall, if you want a solid Blu that features a good film, but it is at least not a complete waste of time.

Check Out a Copy of the Film Here:

 

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Writer/Reviewer, Film Lover, Podcaster, Gamer, Comic Reader, Disc Golfer & a Lefty. There are too many films, TV, books, etc. for me to list as favorites, but I can assure that the amount film knowledge within my noggin is ridiculous, though I am always open to learning more. You can follow me on Twitter @AaronsPS4, see what else I am up to at TheCodeIsZeek.com & check out my podcast, Out Now with Aaron and Abe, on iTunes.

2 Responses to “Reindeer Games (Blu-ray Review)”


  1. Gerard Iribe

    Affleck was the bomb in Phantoms, yo!

  2. Sean Ferguson

    We’ll always have Ronin.