109 Min. | Action – Crime – Drama | December 2006
IMDB Rating: 6.7
Director: Joe Carnahan
Staring: Jeremy Piven, Ryan Reynolds, Ray Liotta
Smokin’ Aces Review: In Smokin’ Aces, here’s another addition to anyone’s list of definitive “guy flicks”. Compared to testosterone treats like Jason Statham’s pair of Transporter stints, this one offers a more complicated plot, fewer explosions and chases, but more gruesome killings. Plus some fine touches of grim humor, and a dash of eye candy. It comes from the fertile, if demented, mind of Joe Carnahan, who struck first with the cheapie hit Blood, Guts, Bullets and Octane, before upgrading to studio-quality crime drama in Narc. Arguably, he’s the US doppelganger for England’s Guy Ritchie (Lox, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch – both also featuring Statham), since he’s less arty and cinematically historical about showcasing mayhem than Quentin Tarantino.
In Smokin’ Aces, Jeremy Piven plays a Las Vegas lounge star and gangster wannabe, who first endears himself to the Mob, runs afoul of the local Capo, then offers his testimony to the FBI in exchange for protection and profit. When the Mafiosi put a $1M price-tag on his head, hordes of hit persons, some hired, others freelance, converge on the casino penthouse in Lake Tahoe where their quarry is “hiding”, while his agent negotiates terms with the Feds. The deep cast includes Ben Affleck, Ray Liotta, Andy Garcia, Jason Bateman, Alicia Keys, and plenty of other familiar faces. Carnahan careens among multiple arenas of plotting, with FBI briefings filling in the audience and their agents on some of the players they’re about to face, building to the inevitable chaos of competing factions converging on Piven and his legion of bodyguards, in what promises to be a dazzling display of carnage and comedy.
In Smokin’ Aces, the reality comes pretty close, with a couple of cool surprises along the way. Unfortunately, Carnahan, like a certain US President who comes to mind, crafted his superb attack without a viable exit strategy. In Smokin’ Aces, after the cosmic convergence, there’s more exposition and anticlimactic wind-down than anyone needed, or the preceding frenzy deserved. Enjoy the movie, fellas. But for those who wait (or double-dip), expect the DVD’s extras to include at least one alternate ending, and several bloody and/or sexy deleted scenes that were axed for optimal running time, rather than lack of titillation. Overall, Smokin’ Aces is an excellent film.