Reindeer Games

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Reindeer Games
Theatrical release poster
Directed byJohn Frankenheimer
Written byEhren Kruger
Produced by
CinematographyAlan Caso
Edited by
Music byAlan Silvestri
Distributed byMiramax Films
Release date
  • February 25, 2000 (2000-02-25)
Running time
104 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$42 million[1]
Box office$32.2 million[1]

Reindeer Games (alternatively titled Deception)[2] is a 2000 American action crime thriller film directed by John Frankenheimer in his final feature directorial outing before his 2002 death. It stars Ben Affleck, Gary Sinise, Charlize Theron, Dennis Farina, James Frain, Donal Logue, Danny Trejo and Clarence Williams III. The film revolves around ex-convict Rudy Duncan, who is dragged into a situation against his will: he must help a group of thieves rob a casino in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, or he will be killed.

Reindeer Games was released by Miramax Films on February 25, 2000. It received generally negative critical reception and was a box office failure, grossing $32 million against a budget of $42 million.


In a prison near Iron Mountain, Michigan, cellmates Nick Cassidy and Rudy Duncan are two days from release. Nick has been exchanging letters with a young woman named Ashley Mercer, although they have never met. He plans to meet Ashley after being released, while Rudy wants to join his family in Sidnaw for Christmas. A fight then breaks out in the prison, and Nick is supposedly killed while protecting Rudy. Upon release, Rudy poses as Nick and meets Ashley. They go to a diner then have sex in a cabin.

The two are then kidnapped by Gabriel, Ashley’s gang leader brother. He tells Rudy that the gang, composed of Pug, Merlin, and Jumpy, are planning to rob a casino where Nick used to work before going to prison. Rudy protests that he is not Nick, but Ashley reveals that she wrote to him knowing Gabriel would use him for the robbery. Realizing that he will likely be killed if they learn that he knows nothing about the casino, Rudy resumes the ruse.

Rudy devises a robbery plan based on Nick’s prison cell stories, and tells Gabriel the biggest loot is in the "PowWow safe" in manager Jack Bangs's office. Gabriel wants Rudy to draw a map of the casino, but Rudy claims that the casino has been remodeled. At the casino Rudy, dressed as a cowboy, snoops around to see any changes, and is almost caught by Jack Bangs but escapes by switching clothes with a college student.

Merlin discovers that the casino was never remodeled and has been the same since it opened. Rudy runs with Ashley to a frozen lake pursued by Gabriel and his thugs shooting at them. Ashley falls through the ice and Rudy jumps in to rescue her. The thugs pull them out and are seen by an ice fisherman, whom Gabriel kills.

Gabriel throws darts at Rudy to get answers and rants about his life as a truck driver. He decides to give him a second chance at drawing the map. Later, Rudy stumbles upon Gabriel and Ashley in the pool area and learns they are not siblings, but lovers. The casino robbery does not go according to plan due to the inaccurate details of Rudy's map. Pug is killed in the count room.

Everyone meets in the manager's office. Gabriel introduces Rudy to Jack as Nick, but the manager recognizes him only as the cowboy from earlier and not as Nick. Gabriel, furious at Rudy’s deception, spares him for a moment when he demands to know where the "PowWow" safe is. When Jack opens the safe, he grabs guns from inside and kills Jumpy as the rest flee. Jack dies during the shootout while Rudy kills Merlin. Rudy is grabbed out the back door by Gabriel and Ashley who tie him up in their 18-wheeler truck.

The two plan to drive Rudy off the cliff in a burning car with some of the money, so it will be assumed the stolen money had been burned. Ashley shoots and kills Gabriel, then Nick appears, having faked his death. Ashley's real name is revealed to be Millie Bobeck, and she was aware of Rudy's identity the whole time. Millie and Nick had collaborated to rob the casino using Rudy, Gabriel, and the gang. They tie Rudy to the steering wheel. Using a knife he had gotten earlier, Rudy cuts his bindings, hot wires the car, and reverses it, crushing Nick's legs. Millie desperately tries to shoot him but Rudy rams the burning car into her. He dives out as the car and Millie go over the cliff. Nick tries to convince Rudy to share the money, but Rudy locks him in the truck and sends it over the cliff.

Rudy picks up the cash and begins distributing it in mailboxes on the way home to Sidnaw, where he joins his family for Christmas dinner.


In addition, some brief appearances include Ashton Kutcher, then starring in the sitcom That '70s Show, as a college student, while porn star Ron Jeremy (credited under his real name, Ron Hyatt) plays a prison inmate.



The film was set in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan but was shot in Vancouver and Prince George, British Columbia, Canada. Shooting began on March 15, 1999.[3]


Vin Diesel was originally cast as Pug, but had disagreements with John Frankenheimer in relation to the script and his character that led to him leaving the project before production began.[4]



The film was screened to test audiences who had a mixed response. This resulted in additional editing and some scenes being re-shot; the release date was pushed back from Christmas 1999 to February 2000.[3]

Home media[edit]

The theatrical cut of the film was released on DVD in the US on August 8, 2000, and included an audio commentary by director John Frankenheimer. An extended director's cut, running 124 mins, was released on DVD in the US on March 27, 2001, including a new second audio commentary by Frankenheimer and additional deleted and alternate scenes. The Director's Cut was released on Blu-Ray on March 6, 2012.


Box office[edit]

On a $42 million budget, the film grossed $32.2 million worldwide.[1]

Critical response[edit]

Reindeer Games received generally negative reviews from critics. The review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes reported that 25% of critics gave the film a positive review, based on 91 reviews, with an average score of 4.2/10. The site's critical consensus reads: "Despite a decent cast, subpar acting and a contrived plot disappointed reviewers".[5] Metacritic, which assigns a weighted average score to reviews, gave a film rating of 37 out of 100, based on 33 critics, indicating "generally unfavorable reviews".[6] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "C−" on an A+ to F scale.[7]

In a 2007 interview with Esquire, Charlize Theron said that she considered this movie as the worst film she ever did,[8] saying that "Reindeer Games was not a good movie, but I did it because I loved John Frankenheimer".[9] A CNN review said: "Reindeer Games isn't at the bottom of his creative barrel, but it's close".[10]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "Reindeer Games (2000)". Box Office Mojo. IMDb. Retrieved July 25, 2021.
  2. ^ "Reindeer Games (2000)". British Film Institute. Retrieved July 25, 2021.
  3. ^ a b Segaloff, Nat (2013). Final Cuts: The Last Films of 50 Great Directors. Bear Manor Media. pp. 110–112.
  4. ^ Rabin, Nathan (April 28, 2010). "Danny Trejo". The A.V. Club. The Onion. Retrieved July 25, 2021.
  5. ^ "Reindeer Games (Deception) (2000)". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixster. Retrieved June 3, 2023.
  6. ^ "Reindeer Games reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved July 25, 2021.
  7. ^ "Find CinemaScore" (Type "Reindeer Games" in the search box). CinemaScore. Retrieved August 14, 2019.
  8. ^ Chiarella, Tom (October 3, 2008). "Charlize Theron Is the Sexiest Woman Alive". Esquire.
  9. ^ Johnathan van Meter (October 2004). Bronzed bombshell. Vogue/
  10. ^ Clinton, Paul (February 24, 2000). "Reindeer Games a Loser". CNN. Archived from the original on April 8, 2008. Retrieved July 24, 2008.

External links[edit]