Reindeer Games

February 25th, 2000


more trailers Reindeer Games

Still of Ben Affleck in Reindeer GamesStill of Ben Affleck and Gary Sinise in Reindeer GamesJanuary Jones and Ashton Kutcher at event of Reindeer GamesStill of Gary Sinise in Reindeer GamesStill of Charlize Theron and Ben Affleck in Reindeer GamesStill of Ben Affleck in Reindeer Games

After assuming his dead cellmate's identity to get with his girlfriend, an ex-con finds himself the reluctant participant in a casino heist.

Release Year: 2000

Rating: 5.5/10 (19,881 voted)

Critic's Score: 37/100

Director: John Frankenheimer

Stars: Ben Affleck, Gary Sinise, Charlize Theron

After being imprisoned for six years on a grand theft auto charge, Rudy Duncan (Ben Affleck) and his cellmate Nick (James Frain) are finally going to be paroled. After hearing endless stories during his incarceration of Nick's romantic correspondence to a woman named Ashley he has never met (Charlize Theron), Rudy is looking forward to returning to his family and having a fresh cup of hot chocolate. When Nick is killed during a prison riot, Rudy decides to assume Nick's identity upon release from prison and meet up with the unknown woman. Burdened with a base knowledge of Nick's Indian casino employment past, Rudy finds himself in too deep with Ashley's brother Gabriel (Gary Sinise) and is violently forced to cooperate with a casino robbery that Gabriel and his gang have been planning with Nick in mind.

Ben Affleck - Rudy Duncan
James Frain - Nick Cassidy
Dana Stubblefield - The Alamo
Mark Acheson - Mean Guard
Tom Heaton - Ugly Staffer
Isaac Hayes - Zook
Michael Sunczyk - Distant Inmate #1
Douglas Arthurs - Distant Inmate #2 (as Douglas H. Arthurs)
Dean Wray - Guard #1
Ron Sauvé - Guard #2 (as Ron Sauve)
Ron Jeremy - Prisoner #1 (as Ron Hyatt)
Hrothgar Mathews - Exit Guard
Charlize Theron - Ashley
Clarence Williams III - Merlin
Donal Logue - Pug

Taglines: The trap is set. The game is on.


Official Website: Dimension /Miramax / Disney (britain) | Dimension Films (america) |

Release Date: 25 February 2000

Filming Locations: Lion's Gate Studios, North Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

Box Office Details

Budget: $34,000,000(estimated)

Opening Weekend: $8,128,356 (USA) (27 February 2000) (2204 Screens)

Gross: $23,360,779 (USA) (18 June 2000)

Technical Specs

Runtime:  | (director's cut)

Did You Know?

Cameo: [Dana Stubblefield] is the convict that stabs Rudy's friend in the prison scene.

Revealing mistakes: When Rudy (Ben Affleck) is trying to hot wire the car you can see the ignition is in the "on" position. Plus the car could not be taken out of "park" without the key being unlocked.

Gabriel Mercer: I read your letters, convict. Don't play no reindeer games with me.

User Review

Frankenheimer's Rosebud...


I can imagine the pitch for "Reindeer Games" being thrown at the execs behind the picture...

"Okay, it's about this guy, who's not who he says he is, who everybody thinks he is, who fools these guys who thinks he is, falls in love with this girl who thinks he is, even though he isn't, and they try to pull a heist with his expertise, even though he has none."

Nick (Ben Affleck) has just been released from jail for defending his girlfriend in a fight prior to being thrown into the slammer. Upon his release, a long-time pen pal named Ashley (Charlize Theron) greets him and they immediately hit the sack. However, her brother (Gary Sinise) wants Nick to help them pull a heist on Christmas Eve at a local Indian casino, which is run by a money hungry wannabe (Dennis Farina). Her brother kidnaps Nick, holds a gun to his head and commands him to draw up a sketch of the security points in the casino, since he used to work there and knows all there is to know about the casino. There is one minor detail, however, that may hinder their plan.

Nick is not Nick.

Nick is really a car jacker who overheard his jail cellmate, Nick, reading his letters from a penpal named Ashley aloud. Nick was killed before his release in the jail cafeteria, and so Nick took his identity so that he could meet up with the infamous Ashley he kept hearing about, forming a mental picture of her in his head.

If you stop to take the time and think through all the minor details of the film's plot (especially given the "twist" ending), you'll probably arive upon the conclusion that it's all a bunch of bull. It simply doesn't make sense if you really take the time to think it through.

If you don't put your brain to work, however, you'll find yourself having fun watching director John Frankenheimer's last film. Frankenheimer was a talented director, the man behind such films as "The Manchurian Candidate," "Seconds" and "Ronin." His last feature was one of his most stylish and brutal, fast-paced, funny, and often just fun to sit through.

Gary Sinise ("Forrest Gump," "Ransom") is his usual villainious self, while the real surprise comes from actress Charlize Theron, who switches character a lot through the film, especially towards the end, and is a real beauty and delight to watch. She's the film's high point, and though people criticize the plot, I found "Reindeer Games" mildly inventive with its shifting twists and turns, even if they aren't always so believable.

The film's downfall is its ending, which feels as if the filmmakers got caught up in all their twists and turns and unconsciously wrote themselves into a wall, then suddenly slapped on a cheesy, cliched ending with a sentimental good guy closing scene. It's rushed, silly, and doesn't fit in with the rest of the film.

Irregardless of its uncountable flaws, "Reindeer Games" (or "Deception" as it is called in the UK) is a fun film, John Frankenheimer's final movie. "Reindeer Games" is often linked as Frankenheimer's long-time dream picture, much like Sergio Leone's "Once Upon a Time in America." Like a dying man's final words, perhaps it conveyed some hidden meaning to Frankenheimer. Or, maybe everyone was wrong. Maybe "Reindeer Games" is nothing but another Frankenheimer film, this one not as good as most of his others.

But "Rosebud" didn't mean anything to anyone except Charles Foster Kane. Maybe "Reindeer Games" meant something to John Frankenheimer. However, as anyone who has ever seen "Citizen Kane" probably knows, it's not likely that we'll ever find out what it means, even if we try.

3/5 stars. Enjoyable if you don't put your brain to work.

- John Ulmer