THE REF (1994)



Directed By: Ted Demme
Story By: Marie Weiss
Written By: Richard LaGravenese & Marie Weiss
Cinematography By: Adam Kimmel
Editor: Jeffery Wolf

Cast: Denis Leary, Judy Davis, Kevin Spacey, Christine Baranski, Glynis Johns, B.D. Wong, Raymond J. Barry, J.K. Simmons, Vincent Pastore

an unfortunate cat burglar, who is abandonded by his partner in the middle of a heist, and is forced to take an irritating Connecticut couple hostage. He soon finds that he took more than he bargained for when the couple’s blackmailing son and despicable in-laws step into the picture. Before long they’re driving him nuts with their petty bickering and family problems. The only way for him to survive is to be their referee and resolve their differences, before he can be nabbed by the police.

This film is a pleasant surprise. It is finally a match for Leary to create a character with his type of insight and humor into everyday life yet shocking since it wasn’t actually written by him.

This is a cynical dark humored holiday movie a perfect anti-dote to all those other holiday movies that spread syrupy cheer even during the worst of times this film has a heart but it beats very slowly and the color is not red it’s black. Like most home for the holiday films each character has a secret or quirk that manages to come out to the forefront while the other characters react.

This movie is funny and smart which is rare in modern cinema especially when the film is marketed as a mainstream fare. I think this movie’s marketing are what kept it from being a hit it felt like the studio who put it out got cold feet about it towards the end and just dumped it or tried to market it as a film it wasn’t. While the film does have a “The man Who Came To Dinner” feel it is far from that. I really enjoyed the whole cast here who work well as a ensemble Kevin Spacey’s career took off after this film but surprisingly the person who made me want to watch this most was Judy Davis who I have always enjoyed as a performer ever since seeing her in woody Allen’s “Husbands & Wives” I always felt she was robbed for the oscar from that movie. This movie actually made me a fan of Denis Leary it made me seek out more of his work and stand-up comedy.

The plot sounds lame but this film is so much more it could almost be a play with it’s great dialogue and down trodden story. It really is a fun movie certainly not family entertainment

You can imagine how this film must be when the leads are unlikeable but compared to the rest of the characters become the most likeable characters. Which is what really makes the film come alive are the characters they are so memorable that they move the movie forward and you enjoy just spending time with them even if the story doesn’t move that much forward

There are so many memorable scenes in this dark comedy that you get to see the good side and bad sides of the holidays.

Which might be why it wasn’t quite the hit that was expected more a word of mouth one on home video. As the film is a holiday comedy that was marketed as mainstream but is more an aquired taste of bittersweet

It’s sad that the director of this film Ted Demme had such a short directing career (Due to his Death) as I feel this was his masterpiece. It would have been interesting to see if he could have topped this in material and follow through

The original ending was that Denis Leary after being questioned by cops goes to jail to show the son of the couple that a life of crime doesn’t pay but then ends up on the Montel Williams show plugging his book about the experience it was shot but scrapped but I am glad they got rid of that ending as it would have cheapened the movie as a aristocratic dark comedy and just have a cheap joke ending that comes out of nowhere. While making it like other holiday films with a uplifting happy ending. In the commercial promos and trailers you can see some of these interrogation scenes. The way it ends now it kind of shows life doesn’t pay it’s not the happiest life but it’s the only one he has.

This is a definite must see if you can buy it you wont be disappointed.


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