‘Smokin’ Aces’: Not a straight flush

Thu, 02/01/2007 - 3:34pm
By: Michael Boylan

“Smokin’ Aces,” the latest film from Joe Carnahan, isn’t a bad movie, but it could have been, and should have been, more fun.

Buddy “Aces” Israel, a Vegas magician with mob ties, gets pinched for a crime and decides to roll over on his mob cronies. The FBI wants him protected but the mob has put a million dollar hit out for the first person to rub out Israel and get his heart. The news quickly circulates around the mercenary circles, a bunch of blood-thirsty assassins show up at the hotel housing Israel and the fun begins, right? Not so fast. What looks like a ton of crazy, violent mayhem builds up rather (maddeningly) slowly. Oh there’s quirky characters, like the Tremor Brothers, white supremacists who look like something out of “Mad Max,” an ADD plagued karate kid with a lazy eye and masters of disguise who are working their way up to Israel’s penthouse. What’s missing? How about someone you could actually care about?

Israel is a drug-addled mess having a nervous breakdown. He isn’t a victim of circumstance and he’s not all that funny. He’s a jerk and you want him to go down. But you can’t really root for the mob or any of the assassins, as crazy and eccentric as they are. The group you would like to see do well gets eliminated very early on and then a plot twist that you see coming from three miles away really bogs down the film some more.

And yet, there are some good parts. The performances, in general, were pretty good. Ryan Reynolds and Ray Liotta are good as FBI partners looking to get Israel out of harm’s way and Jeremy Piven does a great job as Israel, proving that he isn’t just a good supporting actor. There are also some interesting cameo type performances in the film, including one from Matthew Fox. “Smokin’ Aces” also looks and sounds great. It has a good soundtrack and Carnahan does some nifty camera work, especially when the action really goes at full-tilt.

When describing the film, the name Tarantino was mentioned quite a bit. I am a big fan of Quentin Tarantino’s movies and “Smokin’ Aces” is no “Pulp Fiction.” I really was hoping for big things from this movie and instead I was treated to an average crime/action film.


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