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Reindeer Games

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Reindeer Games can't seem to decide whether it's a heist flick or a send-up of a heist flick--hard-ass or dumb-ass. Set amid the shoveled snow of northern Michigan, it also flirts with the farm noir of Fargo and A Simple Plan, but director John Frankenheimer, whose last movie, Ronin, was so quietly effective, takes Ehren Kruger's lazy script way too seriously. Ben Affleck sounds like a fifth-grader when he delivers the line "I was doing a hard five for grand theft auto." He plays a guy just out of prison who, through a case of mistaken identity, winds up part of a scheme to rob an Indian casino on Christmas Eve dressed up like Santa Claus. The leader of the crew is played by a long-haired Gary Sinise, who seems harmless even when he's using Affleck as a human dartboard. And Charlize Theron is the movie's femme fatale, I gather. (Hard to tell from her nonlethal performance.) Frankenheimer overaccentuates the thwomp whenever Affleck's taking a beating, which is often--noise as a substitute for meaning. And I nearly got whiplash from all the plot twists at the end. My advice: Think twice before joining in any Reindeer Games.

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