Reviews & Columns
International DVDs
In Theaters
Reviews by Studio
Video Games

Collector Series DVDs
Easter Egg Database
DVD Talk Radio
Feature Articles

Anime Talk
DVD Savant
Horror DVDs
The M.O.D. Squad
Art House
HD Talk
Silent DVD

discussion forum
DVD Talk Forum

DVD Price Search
Customer Service #'s
RCE Info


Reindeer Games (Director's Cut)

Lionsgate Home Entertainment // R // March 6, 2012
List Price: $14.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Adam Tyner | posted February 26, 2012 | E-mail the Author
Yeah, yeah, I get that Reindeer Games isn't supposed to be good in the sense know, anything, ever...but I couldn't resist grabbing a copy of the flick on Blu-ray anyway. Maybe it makes me
[click on the thumbnail to enlarge]
a bad person, but if I have a chance to ogle a 25-year-old Charlize Theron in high-def, then I'm gonna take it. I guess that's karma coming back to bite me in the ass or something because as wretchedly awful a movie as Reindeer Games is, this Blu-ray disc somehow manages to be even worse.

...but hey! The abysmal technical end of things is a rant for later. First, I'm supposed to bitch about the movie. Ben Affleck is Rudy, a two-bit lowlife who's wrapping up his last few days in prison for boosting Toyotas or whatever. The only thing he really has to look forward to on the outside is a tall cup o' hot chocolate. His cellmate Nick, meanwhile, has a tall cup of Charlize Theron waiting for him. See, Nick has been carrying on a penpal romance sort of thing with Ashley for months now, and all that lovey-dovey poetry is about to make way for something a whole lot more R-rated. All Nick has to do is go the next couple of days without getting stabbed, and then he'll be free and have the girl of his dreams hanging off his arm. Oh. But then there's the whole stabbing thing. It kind of works out, though. The sight of Ashley standing outside the prison gates, all bright-eyed and pink-beanie-d, is more than Rudy can take, so...well, he passes himself off as Nick. Everyone kind of gets what they want. Ashley didn't get the memo about Nick being shivved, so she still gets a guy who likes her for her. Nick...I mean, Rudy-pretending-to-be-Nick is outta prison and has an indescribably gorgeous woman doting on him every step of the way. Oh, and it's Christmas, and what would the holidays be without family? Probably a whole lot better than this since Ashley's brother goes by the charming name of Monster (Gary Sinise) and is forcing NickRudy at gunpoint to help him knockover a floundering Indian casino. Nick used to work security at the place, so Monster and his small army of flunkies think that Ashley's new boytoy can give 'em the inside track. Rudy's never so much as set eyes on the place, though, and he's going to have to do some championship bluffing to keep from being gunned-the-hell-down.

Part of me -- not a part of me I'm proud of, exactly, but still -- thinks I oughtta like Reindeer Games. It's a junk food action/thriller with a ridiculous sense of humor: the whole mistaken identity deal, Ben Affleck ranting about Goddamn hot chocolate and pecan fucking pie, a fright-wigged Gary Sinise chucking a fistful of darts into Affleck, a faux-department-store-Santa roasting on an open fire, a running gag where Rudy takes swigs of whiskey or something out of a water pistol... Pretty much the entire final half-hour of the flick is nothing but semiautomatic weapons firing all over the place. There are
[click on the thumbnail to enlarge]
shocking betrayals stacked on top of more shocking betrayals followed by shocking reverse-betrayals, building up to a particularly dazzling, batshit insane twist. Plus, yeah, Charlize Theron gets all kinds of naked in it. I don't get what a legend like John Frankenheimer was doing anywhere near this, even with as wildly uneven as his last few years as a filmmaker were, but whatever. On paper, at least, Reindeer Games sounds like it ought to be a whole lot of trashy fun, and that's good enough for me. Or, well, it would be if the flick weren't so aggressively awful. Penned by a screenwriter whose credits include Scream 3 and Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, I guess it kinda goes without saying that the dialogue has a double-digit IQ wit and is pretty painful all around. Frankenheimer finds some intriguing angles every once in a while, but his direction is otherwise fairly anonymous. What's supposed to pass for humor consistently falls flat. Even with all the action that's heaped on, none of it ever manages to get my pulse racing. Frankenheimer argues in his commentary that this director's cut is closer to his original vision...that it has a harder edge than the theatrical release and better establishes some of the character motivations. I kind of just want it to be shorter since there's not a whole lot to justify its just-over-two hour runtime. The layers upon layers upon layers of deception and betrayal are absurd but not really in a fun way. Most of the thriller stuff is pretty uninspired. Reindeer Games is so ridiculous yet so routine that it's tough to give much of a shit about anything that's going on.

Even if this Blu-ray disc were strutting around with a breathtakingly gorgeous transfer and hours of extras, you don't buy a movie like Reindeer Games. You watch it on FX at 1:30 PM on a sleepy Sunday afternoon. Oh, wait, you wanna see more than basic-cable Charlize Theron, so change that to Cinemax or something. It's a dopey, tedious action/thriller, and that's what cable TV is for. Anyway, even with its bargain bin sticker price, you really don't want to shell out any money for a Blu-ray disc that looks this awful. Skip It.


If you pop open any of the images scattered around this review to full-size, it kind of looks like I just pointed my iPhone at my TV and snapped off a few shots. Nope. Reindeer Games really does look that dismal
[click on the thumbnail to enlarge]
in high-def, culled from a creaky HD master that's gotta be twelve years old at this point. The image is extremely soft and just about completely devoid of anything resembling fine detail. The edge enhancement that's been heaped on really doesn't make Reindeer Games look any sharper, but...hey! You do get pronounced electronic halos around damn near every area of high contrast, so there's that. Shadow detail doesn't amount to much more than a murky smudge. The photography comes through as consistently flat and lifeless throughout. Edges and certain patterns occasionally shimmer somewhat, along with some nasty aliasing and what I'd swear are deinterlacing artifacts. The image tends to get a bit fuzzy and blurry in motion. Its colors are mostly pretty dull. There's a strange pop in brightness in the middle of the diner scene between Ashley and Rudy. The whole thing is saddled with a digital, not-even-a-little-bit filmic texture. Reindeer Games doesn't even look like a well-mastered DVD, let alone a shiny, new Blu-ray disc. For what little it's worth, the AVC encode has been lavished with a pretty hefty bitrate, so at least the compression doesn't sputter or stutter, but...still! Garbage in, garbage out. Reindeer Games is one of the worst-looking studio catalog titles to be shat out on Blu-ray. Not even worth fishing out of the $5.99 bin or whatever at Wal-Mart.

Reindeer Games kind of lulled me into a false sense of security at first. Bass response throughout its first few moments is deep and throaty, and I was completely sucked in by the enveloping sound of that snowfall. The movie never really sounds that good again. Despite Lionsgate giving Reindeer Games the 24-bit treatment with this DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track, this Blu-ray disc is generally pretty disappointing. The distinctness and clarity I've come to expect out of the format is woefully lacking. The film's dialogue often sounds flat and strained, just barely starting to clip. Sequences that should roar with ferocity, like that prison riot, instead feel limp and lifeless. There's a decent amount of atmosphere lurching from the surround channels, and the six-channel setup is used reasonably well throughout Reindeer Games' more action-oriented moments...especially that mostly unrelenting final half-hour. Strangely, there is one point in a noisy casino where the surrounds just jarringly drop dead mid-shot, but nothing like that happens anywhere else. Anyway, it's just that Reindeer Games doesn't pack that extra wallop that Blu-ray usually delivers, instead coming closer to what I'd expect to hear out of a decade-old DVD.

No dubs or downmixes here. Subtitles are served up in English (traditional and SDH) and Spanish.

  • Audio Commentary: Director John Frankenheimer devotes the bulk of his commentary track to spelling out the differences between various cuts of Reindeer Games: this extended release, the R-rated
    [click on the thumbnail to enlarge]
    theatrical cut, and a largely-unseen version that tested poorly in previews and prompted drastic re-editing and reshoots. There are occasionally other comments of note -- Ben Affleck being put out of commission for the better part of a week after suffering a nasty fall, in-camera effects that would more traditionally be tackled with CGI anymore, directing so many characters pretending to be someone they're not, and hiring actual casino employees rather than trying to teach extras how to pull off those gigs convincingly -- but just about everything else revolves around the testing process and what had to be changed. It does start to feel kind of one-note, especially throughout the final half-hour or so when Frankenheimer more or less runs out of things to say.

  • Original Theatrical Cut Scenes (20 min.; SD): John Frankenheimer mentions repeatedly throughout his commentary that he wants viewers to compare some of the scenes from the more polished director's cut to the truncated versions that played in theaters, and eight of those watered-down sequences have been piled on here. There's no 'Play All' feature this time around, so that can get to be a bit of a slog.

  • Behind the Scenes Featurette (6 min.; SD): Reindeer Games' making-of featurette really hasn't aged all that well over the past decade and change, but there is a good bit of footage from the set along with the cast gushing about working with a legend like John Frankenheimer, so you still might find it worth a quick look.

  • Trailer (2 min.; SD): Last up is a standard-def trailer.

The Final Word
Director's cut or no, Reindeer Games is an already-excruciatingly awful movie dragged down even further by a staggeringly poor release on Blu-ray. Skip It.
Buy from






Skip It

E - M A I L
this review to a friend
Popular Reviews

Sponsored Links
Sponsored Links