The Ref

1994

The Ref

Critics Consensus

Undeniably uneven and too dark for some, The Ref nonetheless boasts strong turns from Denis Leary, Judy Davis, and Kevin Spacey, as well as a sharply funny script.

72%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 54

73%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 26,978
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The Ref Photos

Movie Info

Caroline and Lloyd (Judy Davis and Kevin Spacey) are a married couple constantly at each other's throats, masters at crafting acid-tongued barbs at the other's expense. Indeed, they are so obsessed with belittling each other that they never stop -- not even at gunpoint. Such is the premise of the acerbic comedy The Ref, which shows what happens when this quarrelsome duo is taken hostage. The gunman is Gus (Denis Leary), a thief on the run from the police, who kidnaps the couple as an insurance policy, planning to use their home as a hideout. But their incessant bickering proves more than Gus bargained for, forcing him -- for the sake of his own sanity -- into the unenviable role of peacemaker. To make things even worse for Gus, he discovers that he has taken the couple hostage the night of their big Christmas party, and the guests are already on the way. Not wanting to leave Lloyd and Caroline unattended, Gus opts to attend the party, pretending to be the couple's marriage counselor. This naturally leads to a series of comic confusions, as the hostage crisis and marital tensions head towards their inevitable conclusion. ~ Judd Blaise, Rovi

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Cast

Judy Davis
as Caroline
Herbie Ade
as Bartender
Ron Gabriel
as Limo Driver
Scott Walker
as Prosecutor
Edward Saxon
as Reporter
Donna Holgate
as Newscaster
Derek Keurvost
as Town Citizen
Kenneth Utt
as Jeremiah Willard
Marilyn Stonehouse
as Store Cashier
Victoria Mitchell
as Store Customer
Cort Day
as Salvation Army Volunteer
Robert Ridgely
as Bob Burley
Charles Kerr
as Town Citizen
Derek Keurvorst
as Town Citizen
Caroline Yeager
as Town Citizen
B.D. Wong
as Dr. Wong
John Benjamin Hickey
as Old Baybrook Policeman
Jimmy Burke
as Old Baybrook Policeman
Chris Phillips
as Old Baybrook Policeman
Stephen Hunter
as Old Baybrook Policeman
Arthur J. Nascarella
as State Trooper
Vincent Pastore
as State Trooper
Tony Craig
as State Trooper
Robert Collins
as State Trooper
Peter Krantz
as State Trooper
Robert Kroonenberg
as State Trooper
Philip Akin
as State Trooper
Marilyn Smith
as 1st Santa Family Member
Richard Blackburn
as 1st Santa Family Member
Mark Cregan
as 1st Santa Family Member
John E. Campbell
as 1st Santa Family Member
Cecilley Carroll
as 1st Santa Family Member
Denise Pidgeon
as 2nd Santa Family Member
Chas Lawther
as 2nd Santa Family Member
Lance Paton
as 2nd Santa Family Member
Timm Zemanek
as 3rd Santa Family Member
Jane Moffat
as 3rd Santa Family Member
Jacelyn Holmes
as 3rd Santa Family Member
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News & Interviews for The Ref

Critic Reviews for The Ref

All Critics (54) | Top Critics (14)

Audience Reviews for The Ref

  • Nov 30, 2015
    Very funny...I really enjoyed this movie. Good cast and acting, and the holiday theme is pretty cool.
    Stephen S Super Reviewer
  • Jan 10, 2015
    After a little over 2 weeks of doing reviews from my phone, I've finally managed to acquire a computer. I don't think you'll notice much difference in the length of the review, at least for this film, as I doubt I'd have much to say. I wasn't impressed when I saw this film's poster on Netflix. It just looks like one of those films, that came out in the mid-90s, where the kids hold their parents hostage and they do crazy shit because they're too strict or some such bullshit. And over the course of the film, the children start realizing that they're parents only want what's best for them and the parents learn to not be so strict. Thankfully, though, this wasn't that. To be honest, if it wasn't for the climax being way too cliched, and managing to somehow solve Caroline's and Lloyd's problems way too easily, this would end up being one of the more underrated and overlooked comedies of the 90s, which wasn't exactly a great decade for comedies, but the climax itself really took down what had been a great film. The film is basically the examination, through comedic means, of a marriage that is falling apart right in front of your very eyes and the film, even with all of the clever lines and laughs, features a lot of insight and truths on the sacrifices people make when they've been married. They give up their dreams, they get tired and/or bored of each other, they become responsible and stop being the same person that they used to be due to the pressures of maintaining a family, house, and kids. The dialogue is absolutely top-notch and the performances, particularly Judy Davis and Glynis Johns, as Lloyd's domineering and insufferable mother, are excellent. It's really kind of surprising that, in all my ignorance, I had never heard of this movie until I found it on Netflix last night. I'd like to think I'm somewhat knowledgeable about films, but this film's existence was unknown to me. And it's a shame because, in spite of its very generic and broad ending, this film is pretty great and a film that still holds up very well since it covers some things that are universal. It's a film that's probably as good today as it was when it was first released. But one of the odd things about this movie, when it was mostly a heavily-dialogue heavy film, there were these moments of weird slapstick that really felt out of place. Maybe it was something to make the trailers look like it was more of a broad comedy as opposed to what it really was. Because, outside of the reason I just mentioned, it doesn't really have any place in this movie. With that said, I can't really say enough good about this. There are some misses here, mostly in the climax, but this is still a smart and excellently acted black comedy. I wouldn't say that this is a comedy that would appeal to everybody, but it is pretty damn good regardless. If you have Netflix and you're into dark comedies, while this isn't as dark as others, then this is a good choice.
    Jesse O Super Reviewer
  • Mar 18, 2014
    Now this is a blast from the past, well the early 90's. Back in the days when Leary was a smokin' hot comedian but not much of a movie star and Spacey wasn't that much of a movie star either!. One of those films yous saw in the videoshop amongst the other comedies but never rented because you didn't really know who the actors were, and you'd never heard of the film, maybe that's just me. The plot isn't rocket science but it is genius. Its Christmas and a robber is on the run, so he kidnaps a middle aged married couple, taking them back to their house. Little does the robber know these two lovebirds are having a bit of a marital spat and are at each others throats. To top that the whole family are on the way for Xmas Eve dinner so Leary's robber must try to control the happy couple whilst dealing with a group of nosy pestering family members. It really does sound like the next perfect National Lampoon caper for Chevy Chase, the whole film is very much like 'Christmas Vacation' accept this is more for adults. Its all very obvious really, naturally Leary uses his quickfire motormouth wit to spearhead much of the comedy and cruel attacks against various family members. Spacey's character is soft spoken but with a sharp tongue whilst Davis' character beautifully grows from calm and collected to spiteful rude and loud with her verbal assaults as she slowly gets more drunk. The main attacks fly in the direction of Spacey's mother played in a very stuffy way by the stout Glynis Johns. Of course the old mother character has money so the family normally suck up to her constantly, but this all breaks down slowly as the evening progresses which leads to some very funny moments. You can count on Leary to lose his rag in a monumental fashion with everyone as the heat builds and his window to escape slowly closes. Quite simply the film plays on the common much used comedic factors of our own relations, something that every family in the world can probably relate to. The old mother who is gruff with little tact and heavily controls one son too much. That son being downtrodden weak and always overruled by his wife who clearly wears the pants in the relationship. The other son not liking his brothers wife (his sister-in-law) because she has his brother whipped. The old mother not liking either sons wives and the wives not liking her (the mother-in-law) either. Caught in the middle are the kids who watch with glee as their parents, aunts, uncles and grandparents swear and curse at each other. All the characters are very cliched no doubt, all the usual family stereotypes are drained of every last drop of predictable comedy completely. But it works brilliantly, watching the grown ups verbally abuse each other whilst trying to hold it together for the kids and for Christmas is hilarious. Tiptoeing around delicate issues and then bringing them up deliberately to cause an outburst, it makes you laugh it makes you cringe. Then to add to that you have Leary going nuts trying to keep everything civil whilst trying not to break his cover and trying not get caught by the old bill. The fact Leary acts as the marriage counselor for Spacey and Davis really cranks up the laughs when he verbally jousts against the mother and sister-in-law. This is one of those perfect anti-Christmas flicks that's perfect for Christmas. All the performances are really very good bringing the film to life and making the story so compelling. Its a completely character driven plot with no fancy set pieces or effects or crazy stunts, its all about the dialog. Yeah you know it will have a happy ending and you kinda know how it will pan out as your watching, but its still a dark razor sharp witty pleasure.
    Phil H Super Reviewer
  • Nov 27, 2012
    The Ref is a hilarious holiday film that delivers some good laughs, but it has trouble finding the right tone. When a burglar takes a married couple hostage on Christmas Eve, he get more than be bargained for as the couple's dysfunctional family comes to visit. Denis Leary leads the cast, and is joined by Judy Davis and Kevin Spacey. Unfortunately, the comedy is uneven; as the film doesn't quite know how dark or silly to take the humor. And as a result, the performances suffer and the story becomes unfocused. But even with its problems, The Ref is entertaining and has some fun moments.
    Dann M Super Reviewer

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