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Film / Reindeer Games

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Reindeer Games is a 2000 action thriller film, directed by John Frankenheimer.

Rudy Duncan (Ben Affleck) is a former car thief who gets released from prison after six years so he can come home to his family during the Christmas season. His cellmate and friend, Nick Cassidy (James Frain), is also getting out and while spending time with Rudy, he brags to him about the female penpal he writes to, Ashley Mercer (Charlize Theron). One day, Nick gets stabbed to death during a prison riot and once Rudy was released, he assumes Nick's identity and meets Ashley for the first time. While their relationship heats up, Ashley's criminal brother Gabriel (Gary Sinise) and his group of thugs unknowingly drag Rudy down by bringing them to a casino where Nick used to work so they can steal some money. Things, however, are not what they appear to be.

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Tropes:

  • Batman Gambit: Nick's plan depends on all five Santas getting killed. Five men in Santa outfits rob a casino, five men are found dead soon afterwords, the cops assume all five robbers died and stop looking for them, leaving all the loot (assumed to be lost in a burning car crash) in the hands of the hidden sixth criminal. Too bad Rudy was able to kill Nick, leaving the cops to assume that Nick was the fifth man while Rudy got off scot free.
    • Rudy openly lampshades how "a thousand things could have gone wrong with this" but Nick waves it off as he was confident Ashley would find a way to roll with the punches and keep the plan moving.
  • Chekhov's Gun: A literal one. Nick ends up getting a squirt gun that looks like a real pistol, which ends up getting filled with rum. During a struggle for freedom, Nick and one of the gang members each grabs a gun from the floor, and Nick ends up with the water pistol. Too bad the crook with the real gun decides to light up a smoke before shooting him - high proof liquor fired through a flame quickly causes the tables to be turned.
  • Chekhov's Skill: Rudy is an ex-car thief. His experience in hot-wiring cars comes in handy when Nick and Ashley try to kill him in a faked car crash.
  • Exact Eavesdropping: While going around the hotel, Rudy stumbles onto the supposedly closed pool where he soon learns that Ashley and Gabriel aren't related at all but rather lovers and Ashley has been setting up "Nick" all this time.
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  • Faking the Dead: Nick, and in a way Rudy at the end.
  • Fanservice: Charlize Theron goes topless in a scene in a swimming pool.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Ashley and Nick put Rudy inside of a car with the intent of making it look like he lost control and fell down a cliff. Instead Rudy (a car thief) manages to hotwire it in a hurry and use it to run them both over. Lampshaded by Rudy as a Pre-Asskicking One-Liner.
  • How We Got Here: The film opens with a montage of four dead Santa Clauses, before flashing back to "Six Days Before." It turns out one of the Santas is Rudy, the only one of the main characters to survive the movie.
  • Idiot Ball: Openly lampshaded by Rudy:
    Rudy: Rule one! Never put a car thief behind the wheel!
  • I Never Said It Was Poison: When Ashley mentions Nick was stabbed with a shiv, even though Rudy never told her how her penpal was killed.
  • Kansas City Shuffle: Gabriel thinks that the con is that he and his girlfriend trick an ex-security guard into giving away the secrets to the casino he used to work for in order to "rescue" her from her "brother", after which they kill off the patsy and run off with the money. The real con is that Nick (who faked his death in prison) trick Gabriel and his gang of gun-running truckers into robbing the casino for him, after which he and his girlfriend dispose of all the surviving patsies and run off with the money. Too bad Nick wasn't willing to die.
  • Market-Based Title: Released in Britain as Deception.
  • Meaningful Name: the three main male characters all have names related to Christmas: Rudy note , Nick note  and Gabriel note . Which makes you wonder if Ashley was originally supposed to be named Mary, or even Natalie note  or Noelle.
  • Not Quite Dead: Nick, who turns out to be alive and well and the real mastermind behind it all.
  • Schmuck Bait: The Pow-wow Safe. Criminals are meant to assume that it stores special loot. It actually holds fully automatic weaponry so that the manager can defend himself against anyone who forces him to open the safe.
  • Shoot Out the Lock: Santa does this to a door.
  • Take That!: When Rudy finds out Ashley's true relationship with Gabriel, he tells her, "I had better sex in prison." OUCH.
  • Taking the Bullet: Nick takes a shiv for Rudy in the beginning. Turns out to have been part of a (dangerous) Batman Gambit.
  • Title Drop:
    Gabriel (to Rudy): Don't go playin' no reindeer games with me.
Wham Line: The big turn.
Ashley: Hey! Don't getting all noble on me, Rudy. Guy takes a shiv for you and you go chasing his girlfriend?
Rudy: Wait... you said "guy takes a shiv for you". I never said it was a shiv, how'd you know it was a shiv?

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