Ben Affleck plays Rudy, a car thief whose cellmate Nick is stabbed just days before they were both to be paroled. Knowing a hot young lady named Ashley (Charlize Theron of The Devil’s Advocate) was Nick’s pen-pal, Rudy pretends to be Nick when he meets Ashley so he can, shall we say, get a nice Christmas present from her.
Unluckily for Rudy, Ashley has a deranged criminal brother (Gary Sinese) who kidnaps them and wants Nick’s expertise for a Christmas Eve casino heist…expertise Rudy has to pretend he has, or he’ll get killed. This leads to chases, gunfire, and the robbery, where all of the robbers are dressed as Santa Claus.
What can I say about this movie?
Yes, Charlize Theron is hot, but there’s more to her than that. She’s a potentially strong actress who needs stronger roles and stronger movies (no more Mighty Joe Youngs!).
Yes, Ben Affleck can be appealing in an “aw-shucks” way – which is the way most directors have used him so far – but there’s more to him than that, too. Probably the best director Affleck has had so far is his fellow young guy Kevin Smith, who gets some surprising work out of him by playing with Affleck’s image: casting him as an arrogant bully in Mallrats, as the comic book artist conflicted by commitment in Chasing Amy, or as a banished angel in Dogma.
Director John Frankenheimer has shot some genuine classics (The Manchurian Candidate) or films with classic moments (the bleak science fiction drama Seconds), but here his ability to successfully juggle both action and drama is absent.
This attempt at good dumb fun is just dumb, not fun and not good. Even one moment that at least is an attempt to avoid what’s now an action-movie cliché – the climactic quip by the star (like “Yippee-Kye-Aye…” in Die Hard) – doesn’t work. When Rudy is still standing at the end, having survived all the explosions and fire – c’mon, you thought Ben Affleck would die in this flick? – he just stands there, surveying the scene. I was expecting him to say “Silent night” or some Christmas-y quip like that. And he looks like he’s about to. But he doesn’t.
After all of this, the second-to-last scene at least earns a smile: Rudy, dressed as Santa and carrying millions of dollars, starts depositing bundles of cash in mailbox after mailbox along a Michigan rural road while “The Little Drummer Boy” plays on the soundtrack (“I have no gift to give, bah-rump-bah-bump-bump”). That’s something I haven’t seen before.
But it’s not worth seeing again.