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  • Ref [VHS]
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Ref [VHS]

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Product Details

  • Actors: Denis Leary, Judy Davis, Kevin Spacey, Robert J. Steinmiller Jr., Glynis Johns
  • Directors: Ted Demme
  • Writers: Richard LaGravenese, Marie Weiss
  • Producers: Don Simpson, Jeffrey Weiss, Jerry Bruckheimer, Richard LaGravenese, Ronald M. Bozman
  • Format: Closed-captioned, Color, NTSC
  • Rated: R (Restricted)
  • Number of tapes: 1
  • Studio: Walt Disney Video
  • VHS Release Date: August 11, 1995
  • Run Time: 93 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (438 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: 6303153348
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #221,968 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Denis Leary plays 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 (Kevin Spacey and Judy Davis) hostage. He soon finds that he got 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.


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

Customer Reviews

Great acting and VERY funny.
Michael S. Williams
Denis Leary, Kevin Spacey, and Judy Davis are all hysterical!
One of the best movies i have ever seen.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

88 of 92 people found the following review helpful By David Kleist on June 19, 2000
Format: VHS Tape Verified Purchase
Okay: if the "eff" word offends you, don't buy this video. However, if you grew up in a dysfunctional family in which your parents argued about absolutely anything while you were required to cheer, you'll love this comic holiday tale of a burglar who wanted simply to make his last heist and retire to the islands. Unfortunately, he's attacked by the dog Cannibal; his alcoholic partner deserts him; and he kidnaps a couple who resembles his own parents: two chronic arguers who would pick at each other at the very edge of doom. My mom was obsessed with certain Scandinavian traditions, and when the comedy cuts to a Swedish sit-down feast during which all participants wear garlands of candles and eat traditional Swedish food, I practically go into cardiac arrest. This is not only one of the funniest films ever made, but also it is an accurate portrayal of the nightmare which Christmas becomes for so many middle-class families. Dennis Leary, Kevin Spacey, and Judy Davis are brilliant beyond belief in their rapid-fire deliveries of sadistic sarcasm. Buy it; savor it. Ho ho ho!
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41 of 43 people found the following review helpful By Robin Wolfson VINE VOICE on June 25, 2003
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
It's true. This is my favorite Christmas movie. Now, be warned, you have to be a fan of smart, talky movies (think of comedies from the thirties and forties). The uniting of Judy Davis, Denis Leary, and Kevin Spacey was inspired, and Christine Baranski and Glynis Johns (one of my favorite stars when I was a kid) provide extra pith to an already pith-laden production.
Now you know, of course, that whenever you get Kevin Spacey and Denis Leary in one film there's going to a lot of talking and a lot of ranting, and the rants are truly delicious, topped off with Spacey's line: "The corpse has the floor!"
Judy Davis more than holds her own with Spacey and Leary, and B. D. Wong is delightful as the overwhelmed psychotherapist. As everyone gets a number in a musical, everyone gets a rant in The Ref, reminding us again of why two people argue: because they're both right.
Give yourself a treat and don't wait for Christmas to watch this one.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By "moreland98" on June 8, 2001
Format: VHS Tape
I have a toddler son and very little time to sit down and watch an entire movie. EXCEPT for The Ref. TBS shows this movie a lot, for which I am eternally grateful. Even with the "choice" language suctioned out, I still have to put my head between my knees to keep from passing out due to laughter everytime I see this movie. This movie is the film equivelant of a good shot of Bushmill's whiskey: strong and dry, the humor evaporates on your tongue and leaves you wanting more. Denis Leary is a cat burglar who kidnaps a bickering couple (Kevin Spacey and Judi Davis) to help him escape the cops after a bungled burglary. Little does he know that he has the couple from hell as his hostages... Other reviewers have done a great job explaining the plot, so I won't repeat. This could have easily veered off into stale stereotypes that would bring enough chuckles to not be a complete disaster, but not the home run that it is. Leary, Spacey, Davis, etc. (not to mention Ted Demme, the director), however, conspire to make this a slyly intelligent comedy, with subtle hilarious comments on marriage, in-laws, suburbia, parenthood, good and evil, and all the other grown-up dilemmas that most everyone deals with. I own approximately 5 videos of my own (3 of them are workout videos), and would gladly pay full price to replace my copy of The Ref if need be. This movie is inexplicably not on most reviewer's "Best of..." lists for reasons that escape me. Shame on them! Again, I cannot urge you strongly enough to buy this video. Without a doubt, this is Denis Leary's finest hour as a comedic actor.
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22 of 26 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 9, 1999
Format: VHS Tape
If you're looking for an intelligent, witty, and biting comedy, you'll find exactly what you want with Ted Demme's THE REF. A first-rate cast (headed by Oscar winner Kevin Spacey, multi-nominated Judy Davis, and a surprisingly full-rounded performance by Denis Leary) takes you into the lives of an unhappily married couple and their down-on-his-luck kidnapper on Christmas Eve in a wealthy suburban Connecticut town. Other invaluable cast members include Glynis Johns, Christine Baranski, Raymond J. Barry and a cameo by Broadway's B.D. Wong. In what must be considered a "black comedy", Spacey and Davis throw verbal knives at each other throughout the course of the film, all with an underlying knowledge of their love for each other. Be prepared to laugh out loud at a one-liner one minute, and to be touched and heartwarmed the next. I have watched this film over and over again, without ever failing to enjoy it from start to finish. PERSONAL NOTE: I remember Gene Siskel reviewing this picture when it first came out. He commented on how the "villain" was bald and was named Siskel. He took this as a personal affront, which I find absolutely ridiculous. First of all, Siskel is not the villain, and the fact that he was played by a bald actor (JK Simmons) was coincidental. I never seemed to have the same regard for Gene Siskel after that review.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By James D. Eret on May 30, 2000
Format: VHS Tape
I rented then bought the Ref,not exspecting much. I had seen a little of Denis Leary and Kevin Spacey at that time was just blossoming into a star. Next to the Grinch trying to steal Christmas, this is the most uproarious funny send up of Christmas I've ever seen, yet after watching it you still feel good and miraculously it extends the good cheer. Leary plays a master thief, who robs and then takes hostages, Kevin Spacey and Judy Davis, and if he knew what trouble they would be, he would have run faster from them than the police. These two yuppies take arguments to high art, with Leary only barely having control because he has a gun, but that does not stop their tirades. Add to this wild mix is the family coming over for dinner, gourmet-cooked by Judy Davis, and they hate it. The great Glinnis Johns, as Kevin Spacey's mother, is wonderful, as is all the supporting cast. Only a super-animated character like Leary can keep up with this wildly funny, fuming couple and try(barely) to sort things out. From start to finish, the film rocks with verbal velocity, sight gags(the Swedish candle headpieces were my favorite, with mother saying "my head is getting hot,") and a drunken neighborhood Santa turning quite Scrooge-like and whacky when inebriated. The laughs never stop but like most movies there is a short time to try to stop all this nonsense, draw some moral conclusions(after all this is a Christmas movie-kind of) and find an ending. The ending isn't very clear, for we have seen and heard so much. It would be difficult to draw just one conclusion. Suffice it to say that The Ref is the funiest movie I've watched in years. The acting is brilliant, and that other Director Demme brother, Ted, has a great touch, keeping the sparks and laughs flying at a furious pace. In its own way, The Ref is a minor masterpiece of comedy.
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