Reindeer Games

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Reindeer Games
Reindeer games.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byJohn Frankenheimer
Produced by
Screenplay byEhren Kruger
Story byBob Weinstein
Music byAlan Silvestri
CinematographyAlan Caso
Edited by
Distributed byMiramax Films[2]
Release date
  • February 25, 2000 (2000-02-25)
Running time
104 minutes[2]
CountryUnited States
Budget$42 million[3]
Box office$32.2 million[3]

Reindeer Games (alternatively titled Deception)[1] is a 2000 American action crime thriller film directed by John Frankenheimer, It stars Ben Affleck, Gary Sinise, Charlize Theron, Dennis Farina, James Frain, Donal Logue, Danny Trejo, and Clarence Williams III.

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. It was Frankenheimer's last theatrical film.


Nick Cassidy and Rudy Duncan are cellmates in prison two days away from release. Nick has been corresponding with a young woman named Ashley Mercer, who is waiting for him on the outside. All Rudy wants is to go back to his hometown of Sidnaw to have a piece of pecan pie with hot chocolate and spend time with his family for Christmas. After Nick dies in a prison fight, Rudy gets released alone along with the other prisoners and assumes Nick's identity so that Ashley will think he is the one who has been writing to her. They go to a diner to get to know each other, then they have sex in a cabin. Gabriel, the leader of a gang and Ashley’s brother, kidnaps Rudy and Ashley in their cabin and tells Rudy that the gang, composed of Pug, Merlin, and Jumpy, will rob the casino that Nick used to work at, with Nick's knowledge of the place. Rudy reveals that he is not Nick, but Ashley believes that he is. She reveals that she wrote to him knowing that Gabriel was going to force Rudy to assist in the robbery.

Using the information from the real Nick’s prison cell stories, Rudy is able to devise a robbery plan and informs Gabriel that the biggest loot is hidden inside a safe in the manager Jack Bangs's office, calling it the "PowWow safe." Gabriel shows Rudy a hand-drawn map of the casino, but Rudy claims that the casino has been remodeled. They go to the casino the next day, with Rudy dressed as a cowboy, to snoop around to see any changes. He is almost caught by Nick's old boss, Jack Bangs. But Rudy escapes by impersonating a college student by switching clothes with him in the bathroom. Merlin finds out from a cigarette girl that the casino was never remodeled and has been the same since it opened. Rudy takes Ashley on the run with him as Gabriel and his thugs pursue them to a frozen lake, firing guns at them. One of the bullets causes Ashley to fall through the ice. Forcing Rudy to jump in and rescue her. Gabriel and the thugs pull them out and are then spotted by an ice fisherman, whom Gabriel shoots dead through the man's shanty after getting suspicious. Frustrated by Rudy's escape attempt, Gabriel throws darts at him to get some answers and rants at him about his life as a truck driver, knowing that Jack Bangs doesn't know anything about the planned robbery. So Gabriel gives Rudy a second chance at drawing the map.

One night, Rudy breaks out of his hotel room and stumbles upon Gabriel and Ashley in the pool area, learning that they are lovers and not siblings, but he is forced to return to his room when he is almost caught by Merlin.

The group robs the casino, each dressed as Santa Claus. Rudy, forced to take part in the robbery with only a squirt gun, hides the fact that he knows Ashley’s secret. The robbery doesn't go according to plan due to confusion of inaccurate details of Rudy's plan which gets each Santa killed. Ashley drives into the Casino and lets Rudy know she is in on the heist. All meeting in the manager's office, Gabriel introduces Rudy to the casino manager as Nick but the manager only recognizes him as the cowboy from earlier and not Nick Cassidy. Rudy finally confesses. Gabriel, furious at Rudy’s deception, spares him for a moment when he demands to know where the "PowWow” safe is. When the manager opens the safe, he grabs guns from inside and kills one of the robbers as the rest flee. The casino manager dies during the shootout. Rudy kills Merlin via flame combustion from Rudy's alcohol-filled squirt gun hitting the cigarette lighter, causing him to fall out the window, plummeting to his death below. And is then grabbed out the back door by Gabriel and Ashley who tie him up in their 18-wheeler truck.

They plan to drive him off the edge of a cliff in a burning vehicle with a little of the money so that officials will guess all the stolen money had been burned. After accidentally revealing too much information during an argument with Rudy, Ashley shoots and kills the now suspicious Gabriel. Shortly after, Nick appears, having staged his death at the prison. It is revealed that Ashley's real name is Millie Bobeck and Rudy learns that the two had collaborated to rob the casino using Rudy, Gabriel, and Gabriel's gang. Millie had known the entire time who Rudy truly was. Nick also informs Rudy that the prison stories were part of a set-up.

After they tie Rudy to the steering wheel to drive off the cliff, he produces a knife he had gotten earlier, cuts his bindings, hot wires the car, sets it to reverse and crushes Nick's legs. With Millie firing at him, he rams the fiery car into her and dives out as the car and Millie go over the cliff. Nick, who is still alive, tries to convince Rudy that they can share the money but Rudy locks him in the truck and also sends it over the cliff. Rudy picks up the stolen cash and begins distributing it in mailboxes he comes across on the way home to his family, and he eats a Christmas dinner with them. The film closes with Rudy smiling.


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.[4]

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.[5]


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.[4]

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.[3]

Critical response[edit]

Reindeer Games received generally poor reviews and was not a commercial success. The review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes reported that 25% of critics gave the film a positive review, based on a sample of 88 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".[6] 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".[7] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "C–" on an A+ to F scale.[8]

In a 2007 interview with Esquire, Charlize Theron said that she considered this movie as the worst film she ever did,[9] saying that "Reindeer Games was not a good movie, but I did it because I loved John Frankenheimer".[10] A CNN review said: "Reindeer Games isn't at the bottom of his creative barrel, but it's close".[11]


  1. ^ a b "Reindeer Games (2000)". British Film Institute. Retrieved December 16, 2017.
  2. ^ a b Reindeer Games at the American Film Institute Catalog
  3. ^ a b c "Reindeer Games (2000)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved May 16, 2011.
  4. ^ a b Segaloff, Nat (2013). Final Cuts: The Last Films of 50 Great Directors. Bear Manor Media. pp. 110–112.
  5. ^ Rabin, Nathan (April 28, 2010). "Danny Trejo". The AV Club. Retrieved December 28, 2013.
  6. ^ "Reindeer Games (Deception) (2000)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved May 16, 2011.
  7. ^ "Reindeer Games reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved May 16, 2011.
  8. ^ "Find CinemaScore" (Type "Reindeer Games" in the search box). CinemaScore. Retrieved August 14, 2019.
  9. ^ Esquire: Theron is sexiest woman with pulse Archived September 13, 2008, at the Wayback Machine. (October 11, 2007) Orlando Sentinel. Accessed June 24, 2008.
  10. ^ Johnathan Van Meter (October 2004). Bronzed bombshell. Vogue/ Accessed June 24, 2008.
  11. ^ Clinton, Paul (February 24, 2000). "Reindeer Games a Loser". CNN. Retrieved July 24, 2008.

External links[edit]