Who is Charlize Theron to know which of her movies are good or not? During a recent interview in Esquire magazine, the actress had the following to say about Reindeer Games, one of her early films: "That was a bad, bad, bad movie. But even though the movie might suck, I got to work with John Frankenheimer. I wasn't lying to myself -- that's why I did it. I mean, he directed The Manchurian Candidate, which is like the movie of all movies." Okay, let me stop you right there, Charlize. Have you actually seen The Manchurian Candidate? It's a movie where Janet Leigh plays a Chinese workman. Frankenheimer was an artist of the absurd, and sure, Reindeer Games doesn't work on traditional dramatic levels -- you don't care a lick about what happens to any of the characters -- but you can't watch that movie and not know that the director is completely, deliberately trying to screw with your head. Frankenheimer knew exactly what genre conventions he was working with in this film, and he decided to explode them.
In his negative review, Roger Ebert noted that "just a nudge and the movie would fall over into self-parody and maybe work better. But I fear it is essentially serious." Fear not, Roger. This is not a serious movie, but yes, it does require the characters to act serious, because they think they're in a Christmas-themed gangster plot -- how else should they act? For those who haven't had the pleasure, Reindeer Games opens in prison as Rudy (Ben Affleck) is about to be released from prison. His cell mate, Nick, has an ultra-hot girlfriend on the outside -- yeah, right -- and after Nick is stabbed to death, Rudy upon his release decides to tell the girl he is Nick. She won't know the difference. Turns out the girl, played by Charlize, has a crazy criminal brother played by Gary Sinise who has designs on Nick-Rudy. And that's only the beginning. The movie ultimately pulls rug after rug out from under us, becoming more ludicrous in the last thirty minutes than any serious-minded movie in crime picture history.