Joe Carnahan misses the target worse than his legion of inept hit-men
When hip magician and mob schmoozer Buddy “Aces” Israel (Jemermy Piven) turns states evidence, an army of assassins set out to kill him for the massive bounty. Holed up in a Lake Tahoe penthouse with the local FBI team (Ryan Reynolds and Ray Liotta) for protection, the race is on to conclude the witness protection deal with Andy Garcia’s Deputy Director. Cue curious mix of drama, black comedy and graphic violence that lurches into comic-book excess.
Narc director Joe Carnahan gets some good performances out of his ensemble cast. Garcia moves into Corrupt Elder Stateman territory and is truly repulsive. Ryan Reynolds is suitably shell-shocked in the second half. Jeremy Piven is excellent as Aces, portraying a man who disintegrates before your eyes. Soul singer Alicia Keyes holds the screen for her cameo, Taraji P. Henson thinks she’s in a proper acting movie and old pro Marianne Muellerleile’s grandmother shows the rest how it’s done.
Smokin’ Aces is a mash-up of too many other movies: a Tarrantino portmanteau of vignettes and crossing chracters with hip dialog; Ocean’s Eleven with the casino-hotel thing (even importing Andy Garcia); a complex, layered crime thriller like Usual Suspects and a sylised action shoot-em up after Babylon AD, Max Payne and Hitman (not good company to be keeping). And still the three Mad Max-style leather-clad hitmen with machetes and a chainsaw belong to another genre entirely.
The dialogue is self-consciously too smart. The extended action set-piece overwhelms everything else that is well crafted and assembled, so that the finale is a dreary, cliched affair mitigated only by Reynolds and Garcia. By this time its too late for bathos, pathos or moral indignation.
Smokin’ Aces is what you get with an excess of confidence, budget and a determination to throw in the kitchen sink. Decide for yourself whether the good parts justify the other hour of your time. RC
Director: Joe Carnahan
Writer: Joe Carnahan
Running time: 1 hr. 49 min.
Certificate: R / 18
Genre: Drama, Action & Adventure
Cast: Stars: Jeremy Piven, Ray Liotta, Ryan Reynolds, Ben Affleck, Martin Henderson, Alicia Keys, Andy Garcia, Matthew Fox
Distributor: Universal Pictures