Reindeer Games

on February 25, 2000 by Mike Kerrigan
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   After half a century behind the camera, John Frankenheimer still knows how to put a movie together with enormous style and technique. His craftsmanship has delivered some of the greatest dramas of all time ("Birdman of Alcatraz," "The Manchurian Candidate," "Seven Days in May") and wonderful adventure movies ("Black Sunday," "The Gypsy Moths," the recent "Ronin"). Sadly, this time out he doesn't have the raw materials to make a truly memorable film, but he gets more out of what he has than many others could.
   Rudy (Ben Affleck) is a newly released car thief who switches identities to get close to his dead cellmate's penpal, Ashley. And as the correspondent is played by a mini-skirted and black stockings-clad Charlize Theron ("The Cider House Rules"), who can blame him? Then her psychotic brother, Gabriel ("Mission to Mars'" Gary Sinise), shows up and the game's afoot.
   Apparently Rudy's cellmate used to work in a casino and his insider info could provide Gabriel's gang with the easy route to rob the place--on Christmas Eve. Rudy has to go along with the scheme or he is a dead man.
   The scene is set for a mile-a-minute caper, but it takes the script forever to get anywhere.
   Frankenheimer keeps the visuals interesting and he's well served by his cast. But the material just doesn't have enough substance.
   Musical note: Affleck sings "Little Drummer Boy" several times in the movie in a wobbly baritone. As his pal Matt Damon was warbling "My Funny Valentine" in "The Talented Mr. Ripley," can a musical version of "Good Will Hunting" be far off? Starring Ben Affleck, Gary Sinise and Charlize Theron. Directed by John Frankenheimer. Written by Ehren Kruger. Produced by Marty Katz, Bob Weinstein and Chris Moore. A Dimension release. Crime drama. Rated R for strong violence, language and sexuality. Running time: 100 min
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