Reindeer Games (2000)

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Released 23-May-2001

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Thriller Main Menu Audio & Animation
Dolby Digital Trailer-Rain
Scene Selection Anim & Audio
Menu Audio
Theatrical Trailer
Featurette-Set Pass
Biographies-Cast & Crew
Audio Commentary-John Frankenheimer (Director)
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 2000
Running Time 119:37
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (66:24) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By John Frankenheimer
Studio
Distributor

Roadshow Home Entertainment
Starring Ben Affleck
Gary Sinise
Charlize Theron
Dennis Farina
James Frain
Donal Logue
Clarence, III Williams
Case C-Button-Version 2
RPI $34.95 Music Alan Silvestri


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English Dolby Digital 2.0 (320Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.40:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    When I originally went to see Reindeer Games at the theatre I left feeling rather disappointed. Unlike John Frankenheimer's previous movie, Ronin, this had none of the hard, fast-paced edge to it that Ronin had. Although the cast was good and tried their best to move the story along, there were too many dull interludes between the action sequences, and even the action sequences didn't seem to have a real zing about them, except for the last twenty minutes or so. It wasn't one of the more memorable movies I'd been to at the time.

    When the movie came up for review I put my hand up to give it a second look. I have found in the time that I've been watching DVDs that many movies simply look and sound superior on this medium, so it was with this mindset and not worrying overly about the plot that I sat down to review this movie. Let me say before I begin that we have been given the Director's Cut version of Reindeer Games, which has almost 20 minutes of added footage, for which Roadshow should be applauded. This version offers us the Director's original vision for the movie. What we are given, therefore, is a much tighter, harder and violent movie than the original theatrical release.

    The story begins as Nick (James Frain) and Rudy (Ben Affleck), cellmates at the Iron Mountain Penitentiary are discussing their imminent release. Nick is dreaming of Ashley (Charlize Theron), with whom he has been corresponding for over six months, but never met, and whose pictures adorn his wall. Rudy has dreams of returning home, a mug of hot chocolate and some pecan pie. Things change when a prisoner starts a riot (Isaac Hayes in a minor cameo) and Nick is stabbed and killed by The Alamo (Dana Stubblefield), an inmate with a grudge against Rudy. With only two days left of their respective sentences, Rudy is devastated. After his release, Rudy spots Ashley waiting for Nick and decides to assume Nick's identity (this was one of the thinnest parts of the plot, but Charlize Theron is attractive enough to be believable).

    Slowly, Ashley and Rudy develop a passionate relationship, but Ashley's brother, Gabriel (Gary Sinise) shows up with some playmates (including Clarence Williams III who really shines in this movie, Danny Trejo and Donal Logue) and have plans of their own for Nick. Whilst in prison, Nick wrote to Ashley about working in security at the Indian Springs casino and Gabriel and his boys need Nick to help them pull a heist. The biggest problem is that Rudy isn't Nick and doesn't have a clue about the security set-up at Indian Springs. He has to find a way out of his dilemma and save Ashley from her brother or he's history.

    This is a slow-building movie that moves inexorably towards a climax, while laying out the reasons behind the various characters' motivations in a complex series of scenes. It doesn't just hand everything to you on a plate. It is intended that you come to your own conclusions, after which there are a couple of clever twists in the plot that are used to keep you guessing. There isn't a really weak performance from an excellent cast, but unfortunately the same cannot be said about the material they are given to work with - the movie will feel slow for those of you used to high octane action!

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Transfer Quality

Video

    This transfer has only minor blemishes for the most part. Most are noted for completeness and do not constitute major problems with the transfer.

    The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1 and is 16x9 enhanced.

    The transfer is as sharp as you would expect with a more recently released movie, although there is some grain obvious throughout. Shadow detail suffers a bit due to the low level lighting, in part to maintain the mood. Low level noise is very minimal and hardly worth a mention. Very minor edge enhancement was noticed although the low lighting rendered most instances invisible.

    The colour palette used in this movie is mostly drab and dull, and intentionally so. There is no richness of colour but it does adequately convey the feeling of cold inherent in the wintery theme of the movie.

    There is some aliasing at 48:29 (on Gary Sinise's sunglasses), 51:03 (edge of table), 51:52 (on the poker machine in the background), and 64:34 (on the jukebox). There is a slight telecine wobble at 93:18, fortunately barely noticeable. There is a moiré artefact visible on a low res video monitor at 86:53.

    There were several continuity errors that occurred throughout the movie. At 42:06, there is a slight glitch as Ben Affleck throws something at Charlize Theron, at 48:29, Clarence Williams' head moves unnaturally, at 51:37, Ben Affleck's head also changes position unnaturally and at 80:23 the door to the stairwell pauses slightly while closing. Considering the amount of footage edited back into the movie for this version, a few slight glitches that last all of a split-second in most cases are worth it considering the improvement they make to the overall feel of the movie.

    The only subtitles on offer are English for the Hearing Impaired. In attempting to give a complete rundown of all the dialogue in the movie they are often on-screen for only a brief second making them hard to follow at times. They are accurate (from what I saw of them) and reasonably located.

    The layer change occurs at 66:24, beautifully positioned between scenes and not affecting the dialogue or action at all.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    This is one of those movies that occasionally explodes with sound effects, has a terrific moody soundtrack, and lives just beneath the conscious layer for much of the time.

    There are two audio tracks on this DVD; English Dolby Digital 5.1 and English Dolby Digital 2.0 surround-encoded. I listened to the 5.1 track.

    The dialogue is so crystal clear that even in the quietest of scenes, such as at 84:06, where Ashley whispers into Rudy's ear "Tomorrow is Christmas Eve, my love", clarity is excellent. With so much riding on the dialogue to develop the characters, you'd expect nothing less. The audio sync seemed to be perfect, although a lot of the time you can't clearly discern the actors' lips. There was a problem with the audio commentary from around 71:00 minutes on. There is a definite disparity in the sync that is very noticeable.

    The music is by Alan Silvestri, whose list of credits is certainly impressive (Predator/Predator II/Forrest Gump to name a few). This may not be the most memorable of his efforts but he succinctly uses deep bass undertones and throbbing beats, melded with a solid score, and succeeds in creating a soundtrack that matches the action on-screen as well as the bleakness inherent in the surroundings.

    The surrounds are used sparingly throughout the movie, mostly in support of the music but really coming to life during the action sequences. The shoot-out at 88:00 has shots literally flying around the room.

    The subwoofer is beautifully utilized during the movie. It supplies real depth to the musical score as well as being excellently utilized during the action sequences. Considering the first hour of the movie is solidly focused on the dialogue and character development, the major use of the subwoofer is to provide a solid bass sound for the music and then to come aggressively to life as needed.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Main Menu Audio & Animation

    An animated effect of falling snow makes this a little better than your average menu. Music from the movie is also overlaid. The main menu offers four options; Play, Scene Selection, Special Features, and Sound and Subtitles. Audio for the following extras is at the very respectable bitrate of 320Kb/s in Dolby Digital 2.0.

Dolby Digital Trailer - Rain

    Ho hum, at least it wasn't the City trailer.

Scene Selection Animation & Audio

    Another nice touch is the Scene Selection menus that include movie clips for each chapter selection along with the corresponding audio.

Audio Commentary - John Frankenheimer (Director)

    This is probably the most honest and openly critical appraisal of a movie I've heard in a long time. Frankenheimer is given to praising his cast and crew, but he is his own harshest critic. He describes the various cuts and re-edits that were made prior to the original release and the mistakes he made pandering to the producers, the studio and to the preview process commonly used nowadays. He is a very articulate man but he often seems to be searching for the right words and there are many pauses in between sentences which made me think he was trying not to be too scathing at times. The commentary seems to have been done in sections because there are moments of quiet, then a slight break, and then he'd be off and running again. In addition, there is one section where the audio of the movie, which runs concurrently with the commentary, is a least a second out of sync with the video. This occurs at around the 70 minute mark.

    This commentary had me listening intently as Frankenheimer has a reputation as a master craftsman but is totally honest about his trade.

Theatrical Trailer

    2:06 running time, 1.78:1 aspect ratio and 16x9 enhanced, it contains some grain and film artefacts in the initial twenty seconds then improves markedly. The trailer is most noteworthy for one specific scene that was in the original movie (by my recollection) but wasn't in this Director's Cut (Ben Affleck jumping across a small ravine). Obviously one of the deleted scenes John Frankenheimer alludes to in his commentary that were never included.

Featurette - Set Pass

    Far too short at 6:08 in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and 16x9 enhanced. A typical studio-type release that suffers from pixelization and oversaturation. A much fuller version was warranted to truly complement the movie.

Biographies-Cast & Crew

    Standard fare again. The only biographies are for the main characters plus the director (Ben Affleck/Charlize Theron/Gary Sinise/John Frankenheimer).

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    Region 4 misses out on:     Region 1 misses out on:     There is a Director's Cut due soon in Region 1, but the obvious choice would be the R4 version at this time.

Summary

    Reindeer Games has a slow-moving and sometimes thin plot that is saved, in large part, by some quality acting. Given the additional footage that more fully develops the twists in the storyline and adds a more menacing edge to the feel of the movie, it was a far more entertaining watch than the initial theatrical release.

    The video quality was consistently good throughout, with the exceptions noted.

    The audio quality was also very acceptable with more subwoofer activity than expected as a pleasant bonus.

    The extras are a little thin, although the audio commentary is of decent value.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Carl Berry (read my bio)
Wednesday, May 09, 2001
Review Equipment
DVDLoewe Xemix 5006DD, using RGB output
DisplayLoewe Xelos (81cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationYamaha RXV-595a
SpeakersJBL TLX16s Front Speakers, Polk Audio 3MIIs Rear Speakers, Polk Audio CS245 Centre Speaker, M&KV-75 Subwoofer

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