The Ref (1994)


Dave’s 3-Word Review:
Doesn’t work anymore.

Now, before I watched this film, I wasn’t entirely sure if I’d actually seen The Ref or not, and I’m still not sure…at least not entirely. This is like…a film you might catch on TV as you’re getting ready to leave, or you’re waiting for company, not a serious film that you’d want to buy. Personally, I think I’ve seen bits and pieces of this film, but it didn’t ever catch enough of my attention to finish it. After I watched it this time around, I can see why: it simply has no idea what its own target audience is.

When a criminal loses his getaway plan after a little heist, he finds the first available car and takes the driver and his wife hostage. To their house the fugitive goes, where he claims sanctuary until his ticket out of the town and probably country is locked safely into place. The only problem are these two bickering married couples annoy the heck out of him. Being a good “ref” that he is, his brutal vision of how stupid they are being actually helps them see things a little bit clearer. The real problem, however, doesn’t really start until their family shows up for the Christmas party and the fugitive must act as the couple’s marriage therapist.

In order to really appreciate this film, you might have to end up doing what I did, which was take a look at this as if it is…a different way of “surviving the holidays”. It still has the same type of themes that your average, every day Christmas film has, but with a bit of a twist at the same time. With a bit of bickering charm coming from Kevin Spacy and Judy Davis, the film turns into something you can somewhat enjoy, honestly. The only problem I ran into solely fell upon the target audience, and unfortunately that is a pre-production problem, not unlike writing and casting.

When I say pre-production problem, I mean the flaws of the film are rooted so far back that the film was doomed before they even started filming. Target audience is magnificently important, because that interprets the tone of the film. This film looks and feels like a family film…something like Home Alone. You got the goofy characters, the goofy music, the honestly over-the-top but fun elements…it’s all there…and then the characters start cussing a lot and talking about sex, and guess what? The two just don’t mix well because you got the film geared towards adults on paper, and the look and feel says family friendly…suddenly…we got a problem. The reason why this dooms the rest is because that’s a foundation…like a butterfly effect, or snowball effect. Just trust me, it was doomed.

I wasn’t a huge fan of Denis Leary in his role here, it didn’t seem very well written. I will say, however, that for some reason or another, I did like the performances between Spacey and Davis. Judy Davis is a strange-looking woman, and I can’t really see her and Kevin Spacey really being a couple, but as for the film…I bought it. They have that quick-witted humor and charm that it doesn’t take a lot to really believe in their performances. I just didn’t really care for probably the most important role here, which was Leary. Well…their kid wasn’t all that fantastic either. I guess all around I wasn’t a magnificent fan. Even the fact that it was Christmas almost seemed lost on me, regardless of the fact that Christmas was one of the settings that furthered the story….I don’t know.

The Good:

Kevin Spacey and Judy Davis are great at bickering at one another, they have a great sense of being witty and both have chemistry and charm. Their performances alone make the film bearable.

The Bad:

A very ‘meh’ plot. The only real thing I cared about in this film were the performances by Spacey and Davis. The rest of it just wasn’t really appealing to me in the slightest.


3 thoughts on “The Ref (1994)

  1. Basically agreed. I might have enjoyed a tiny bit more than you, as I think it has the occasional moment of funny, but the tone is off, the characters do not behave genuinely and the plot is not interesting. All in all not a good movie, this one.


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