A twist too far

There are bad movies, and then there are movies that absolutely enrage people. One of the latter is the film Reindeer Games, where Ben Affleck plays an ex-con who gets forced to do a heist.

If you haven't seen the movie, you're like, What's so infuriating? There are an awful lot of mediocre action movies about a guy who wanted to get out of the game but was pulled back in. It's like a Simpsons meme at this point.

But the thing that really seems to enrage people about Reindeer Games is that there's a twist partway through, and then toward the end there's another! shocking! twist!

Except that it's not really shocking. It's unexpected, sure, but that's because it not remotely credible. (No, he doesn't wake up and it's all a dream, but it's about as satisfying.) You look at this twist that is suppose to explain all the crap that's been going on in this mediocre movie, and you promptly downgrade the film from "mediocre" to "insulting to my intelligence."

I was thinking about that because I recently finished a book where the main character is accused of crimes that--in a shocking twist!--it turns out he didn't commit.

Now, have you ever been accused of crimes you didn't commit? I have (luckily not by anyone with the least credibility), and let me tell you, everyone who knows me has heard about it. At length.

But this guy is accused by credible sources and does have a price on his head and is estranged from his family and society at large. Why? Because he never bothers to point out to people that, you know, he didn't actually do it--at least, not before the denouement.

There's a lot of drama there, what with family members trying to hunt him down and whatnot. And I suppose it was intended to be exciting, but at the end I just found myself wondering why the hell he never spoke up for himself beforehand--it would have saved him (and his family) an awful lot of trouble.

I think twists or reveals are fine as long as they make sense. But you have to be disciplined about it. I don't like it when characters just arbitrarily decide that they need to keep certain secrets (that just happen to be convenient for the plot) from their nearest and dearest. I mean, it's not like that doesn't happen (my own father hid a cancer diagnosis from his family) but it's incredibly dysfunctional behavior (while that specific cancer didn't kill my dad, that pattern of behavior finally did).

And I really don't like it when an antagonist who does horrible things to the protagonist turns out to have been secretly on their side all along. I'll give you a little life lesson: The people on your side act like they are on your side. The people trying to do you in are a danger to you. These two groups of people do not overlap. If someone insists that they are on you side as they try to do you in, that person has a personality disorder--which can make for some exciting reading, to be sure. I also don't mind it a bit in stories when people do bad things while trying to do the right thing. But if everything ends in hearts and flowers and puppies and rainbows and I-was-secretly-on-your-side-all-along, it's just not credible.