Director: Ted Demme
Stars: Denis Leary, Judy Davis, Kevin Spacey, Robert J. Steinmiller Jr., Glynis Johns
Genre: Comedy, Crime, Drama
Rating: R (Restricted)
Runtime: 97 minutes

Caustic wit gets a full-body workout in this 1994 comedy, in which a cat burglar (Denis Leary) gets trapped in an affluent Connecticut neighborhood and is forced to hold a bickering couple hostage on Christmas Eve, only to discover that their Yuletide spirit is anything but cheerful. Caroline (Judy Davis) and her husband, Lloyd (Kevin Spacey), have been at each other's throats for so long that they've developed domestic arguments into an art form, and the would-be kidnapper turns into a reluctant mediator, even after he's got the battling couple wound up in bungee cords. The situation grows even more complicated when the couple's smart-aleck son comes home from military school, but it's not the plot here that's a top priority. Instead it's the sheer pleasure of witnessing a three-way verbal jousting match, written with razor-sharp skill and delivered by actors who are perfect for their roles. The movie's got a dark edge, but it never gets too dark--you know that it's not going to slide into more seriously damaging territory, so you can sit back and enjoy the volleys of scathing insults and sarcasm the way you would a Don Rickles performance. If that sounds like your idea of entertainment, The Ref will serve it up with style. --Jeff Shannon

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