2006
Rated: R for graphic violence, strong sexual content, and torture.
Genre: Crime Gangster Thriller Action Comedy
Directed By: Joe Carnahan
Running Time: 1:48
Review by: Felix Vasquez Jr.
Review Date: 6/20/07
Special Features:
Alternate Ending and 18 Minutes of Deleted Scenes and Outtakes
Shoot 'Em Up: Stunts & Effects

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SMOKIN' ACES

 

Feminist hit women, soccer hooligan hit men, and a chameleon. All of whom are vying for the main prize, the heart and head of a very desired mob snitch, and they’re the cavalcade of characters that make up the rather entertaining “Smokin’ Aces” a film in the vein of “Ocean’s Eleven” and “Sin City,” that oozes styles, and unabashedly embraces the fact that it’s basically nothing but a moving comic book, while also providing one hell of a juicy throwback to the Grind house era. Carnahan, director of the excellent "Narc," knows what his movie is from the get go, and he flaunts its sheer cheese at every corner.

More so, it’s less the unabashed campy film the trailers perceive it as and really does attempt a more elaborate mystery that takes place in the seams of story. With the giant cluster fuck of hit men struggling to be the first in line to grab the jewel of the underground crime circuit, “Smokin’ Aces” just goes balls to wall as an unpredictable action byproduct featuring a great all-star cast. Two mob bosses are planning to take the heart of a famous magician, and are offering up quite a reward, word gets out, and we’re introduced to almost five groups of hit men vying for the goal, including two police men trying to get to him before anyone else does.

Ryan Reynolds, a man I’m very much a fan of, holds up well against the rest of the cast as a young officer racing to Vegas with his partner Carruthers (Ray Liotta, stealing scenes), as we’re introduced to characters, and a particular catch to the story. You can almost sense Carnahan is going for a hook right from the beginning; everything is never as it seems from minute one, and we’re often times led down an elaborate story with plot twists at every corner.  

Once Carnahan pulls down the veil, it’s a rather surprising little twist that paves “Smokin’ Aces” as a film that’s much more complicated than it looks. There’s also the colorful characters that keep this film a pure grab bag of laughs, with a psychotic hillbilly gang of assassins, two feminist hired killers played by Alicia Keys who is rather strong in this role, only to name a few, and like many other action films of this ilk, “Smokin’ Aces” is much more about the action than the characterization. Bullets propel folks feet away, people survive skirmishes no one else could, and Carnahan keeps the pacing balanced enough to never bore audiences. The pitch to “Smokin’ Aces” is on the personalities within the cast, and not so much pure characterization; if you’re not versed in trash neo-grind house cinema, you will not enjoy this. I however, had a blast.

One of the more noticeable caveats of “Smokin’ Aces” is the sheer over the top performance of Andy Garcia, as a man who can never seem to get his accent straight. Is he Hispanic, is he Southern, is he a Hispanic Southern? I could never really know, and personally neither did he. Beyond that, Carnahan anxiously tries to add emotion to the back stories of our characters and their tragic endings, and can never accomplish that level of sentiment, as hard as he tries. It’s almost asking too much for Carnahan to build basic types, and provide almost non-stop action, and then try to gauge our emotions by forcing tragic endings, and tear jerking moments. All of which fail, sadly.

Whether it deserves credit for being so over the top or not, “Smokin’ Aces” is a beautiful piece of action trash cinema that I love. It’s the type of movie that you can watch alongside “Domino” and have a blast with. A great ensemble cast, along with excellent direction makes this a gem worth the watch.

 

 

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