Movie: "The Ref"Director: Ted Demme
Running Time: 1 hour, 36 minutes
A cat burglar takes a married couple hostage while he hides out from the police. It turns out, he couldn't have picked a worse couple to kidnap. The two have an extremely volatile marriage and a bunch of disagreeable relatives coming over for Christmas eve dinner, making his easy task much more difficult than he expected.
"The Ref" is a Christmas crime comedy directed by Ted Demme. It stars Denis Leary as Gus, a cat burglar who gets in a bit of a pinch when he sets off an alarm at the house he is robbing. Pursued by the police, he takes a married couple hostage. Kevin Spacey and Judy Davis play Lloyd and Caroline, the aforementioned couple, but unbeknownst to Gus, the two are having serious problems and are on the brink of a divorce. To make matters worse, their juvenile delinquent son, Jesse, played by Robert J. Steinmiller Jr., and their extended family who they don't really get along with, are coming over for Christmas eve dinner. Gus was hoping to hole up until his partner Murray, played by Richard Bright, could get them an escape route, but this task is far more difficult than expected.
This is a darkly humorous holiday crime caper. Denis Leary does his specific brand of profanity-laced rage comedy that has made him so famous, but he does so in a way that's wholly entertaining and even slightly endearing at times. He winds up playing therapist to a feuding couple who clearly don't even want to be in the same room as one another. Kevin Spacey shows his ability to deliver a nasty, snide remark with enough wit and charm to make it always hilarious. Of course, the vast majority of this film consists of people arguing and insulting each other, so if that's not your cup of tea, it's might be best to avoid this movie. We, however, like this kind of offbeat, unconventional humor in our Christmas movies, so long as it's executed well, which is is here. That being said, there are some aspects of the film that are a little contrived as it all wraps up too neatly. The ending doesn't feel like it is earned and doesn't come about organically...well, all of it except for the big blowout where Spacey finally tells off his mother, played by Glynis Johns, off in a spectacular fashion. Really, it seems like the writers were running out of material, so they suddenly decided to end it the way they did. We don't hate the ending, it's just too convenient.
If you like dark comedies mixed with holiday cheer and a heck of a lot of arguments, "The Ref" is the snarky, sarcastic, grimly funny film for you.
My Rating: 6.5/10
BigJ's Rating: 6.5/10
IMDB's Rating: 6.9/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 71%
Do we recommend this movie: Sure, why not?
Last Christmas, we were watching: "Edward Scissorhands"
Two Christmases ago, we were watching: "Gremlins"
Three Christmases ago, we were watching: "Die Hard"