TED DEMME’S THE REF — A REVIEW BY NICK CLEMENT

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This is one of my favorite Christmas-themed movies. It’s extremely underrated, totally cruel, and aggressively funny, and is easily the most off-beat item to carry the Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer seal of approval (but why no lightning bolt logo?) Directed by Ted Demme, whose career and life were sadly cut way short when he tragically died in 2002, this was the first big project for comedian/actor Dennis Leary just as his legendary No Cure for Cancer stand-up tour was winding down; it’s a shame that the studio buried it without ever seemingly believing in it. Starring Kevin Spacey and Judy Davis as a wildly bitter and constantly bickering married couple who are taken hostage by a desperate criminal (Leary) on Christmas eve, this is one of those bile-spewing dark family comedies where everyone is an asshole and everyone loves telling everyone how much of an asshole they all are. Richard LaGravenese and his sister-in-law Marie Weiss wrote the caustic screenplay, which has lots of fun with the casually nasty scenario, while Leary painted a priceless portrait of a bumbling criminal who gets mixed up with the wrong family on the wrong night. Demme’s direction was on-point, the supporting cast thoroughly ace, and the coal-in-your-stocking attitude is the perfect antidote to all of the phony-happiness that this crass commercial season brings about. If only the film’s original, darker ending could see the light of day on a Special Edition Blu-ray…

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