Smokin’ Aces

| February 2, 2007

I pretty much knew what I was getting into while walking in to Smokin’ Aces- a fun ride. Along the lines of The Big Hit and other assassin flicks, this little gem was thoroughly entertaining with an A-list cast, big laughs and even a dash of drama to bring things up a notch.
Considering this is traditionally known as “dump month” in Hollywood right now, it’s also no surprise that this film did surprisingly well at the box office this weekend. But just in case you didn’t see it or catch one of the zillion television spots, here’s the run-down.
A mafia wannabe named Aces (played brilliantly by Jeremy Piven) is about to snitch on an ass-load of mob bosses. When word gets out that he’s a filthy, low-life snitch, every mafia clan from here to kingdom come sends an assassin (or team of assassins) to smoke his ass before testifying. The F.B.I. finds out about these hits as they’re being planned and sends two agents to pick him up before the baddies arrive. Naturally, they don’t make it quite in time and all hell breaks loose. This is followed by lots of people dying in glorious fashion.
First, let’s talk about the cast. The real weight of this flick rests on the shoulders of Ryan Reynolds, who really shows off his dramatic chops colorfully. He ends up being the central character by the film’s end, and they couldn’t have picked a better actor for the job.
On the other end of the spectrum, you have Jeremy Piven as Aces. Even though this is one dirty motherfucker, Piven succeeds with the daunting task of making you sympathize with the poor coke head. Major kudos to both of them.
Besides these two actors – and Jason Bateman providing some killer comic relief – the rest of the cast didn’t have much to do except provide “names” for the poster and marketing plan.
Andy Garcia, Ben Affleck, Ray Liotta and Peter Berg were all a bit underused, but considering the flick was shot for under $20 million, I’m actually impressed these guys all made appearances. And I didn’t even mind the weak performances of rappers Alicia Keys and Common (probably because I didn’t know who they were until afterwards).
There were a few other entertaining unknowns such as the three psycho brothers, but I’m too lazy to look up their names.
The directing was pretty similar to Joe Carnahan’s first couple flicks, especially Narc. It’s shaky, it’s gritty, it’s in your face. But thankfully it never gets over the top (ala Tony Scott). And the script is pretty solid for an action-thriller. Though it definitely doesn’t go without flaws. Carnahan has always had a big problem with plot twists and resolution in his movies, and Aces is no exception. While there is a pretty decent plot twist, there are many layers to it that makes it extremely complicated.
Considering this is one of those movies that has a lot of characters in it – many of them unknown actors – some viewers may find it a bit difficult to remember who’s who when everything unravels in the end. The big plot twist, or “revelation” of the third act, didn’t make much sense to me upon first glance and caused me to have flashbacks of Ocean’s 12 for a brief moment. So it’s also one of those flicks that may require a second or third viewing to allow everything to register.
Nevertheless, Smokin’ Aces was one hell of a fun ride. And shockingly enough, it had a lot of heavy drama in it. This isn’t a bad thing, but I guess many of us were expecting something a little more light-hearted. Thanks to writer/director Carnahan allowed the dramatic and comedic elements to be balanced well, I would gladly recommend this flick to anyone who is a fan of action/comedies.

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