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Review: Smokin Aces

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posted on Jul, 17 2007 @ 08:39 AM

Review: Smokin' Aces

This thoroughly enjoyable little gem nearly escaped my memory. I'd remembered wanting to see it when it came out in theaters, but for some reason or another, we missed it. The wife surprised me the other night by renting it, and I knew it needed review.

The Breakdown

GENRE: Action/Comedy
PLATFORM: Color, Motion Picture
STARS: Ryan Reynolds, Ray Liotta, Jeremy Piven, Ben Affleck, Andy Garcia
LOVE IT: Fans of Guy Ritchie and Quentin Tarantino films.
HATE IT: of chick flicks?
ACTING: Better than adequate, considering the B-List Stars.
MUSIC: Better than adequate.
WARNINGS: Some female nudity, Language, Graphic Violence.
SCORE: 9/10
TEASER: A funny, witty, race through a hotel between multiple assassins and the FBI to be the first to reach the mob-snitch.

The Full Review

Now, before anything else, I have to give huge props to Joe Carnahan (the writer and director) for creating the role of Warren "The ADHD Karate Kid" and Zach Curner for playing the role to a T. This was, without a doubt, the funniest part of the entire movie. He was one of those completely unnecessary characters that chewed more scenery than a Lorax, and left one thinking "WTF, mate?", but damned if he wasn't one of the funniest and most unique characters I've seen written into a movie. The kid was a U-Tube mini-movie all in himself, and you have to see the movie to understand why.

So... on to the rest of the movie. As you may have noticed, this is largely a B-List cast, but don't let that keep you from watching the movie. Despite his severely lacking resume, Carnahan does a fantastic job of bringing out the best qualities of lower-grade actors and focusing them in short, sharp segments, that give the whole movie a very snappy rythmn as scenes rapidly, but seamlessly shift from one set of actors and actresses to another.

You never really get the opportunity to become bored in this movie. Dialogue plays as large a role in the movie as the action, but don't let that deter the action-buff. At any given moment, every character in the movie is having the same conversation with someone else, and the point of view merely switches from one group to another, while the conversation itself remains intact. It's not an entirely original concept, but it was very well executed in this movie, and the use of it by Carnahan was brilliant in that one never had to worry about the characters having to really act. He simply had to shoot each character having the same conversation, and choose the best few seconds out of each one to string together into a coherent dialogue. It may sound like a cheap effect, but it was quite well done, and for good reason.

This style of filming suits the premise excellently. In essence, a mob hit has gone out on a Vegas magician named Buddy "Aces" Israel (Piven), with a whopping $1,000,000 bounty on his head, because Buddy is about to snitch to the FBI and bring down every mob-boss on the west coast. Word gets out and soon every professional assassin and their brother is out to claim the bounty, and the FBI are racing to get to Buddy before the hitmen do.

The lead character of Richard Messner, is played by Ryan Reynolds (aka Van Wilder), and actually extended his acting range in this movie as a "serious" character. He played the role of the straight-man quite well, and didn't crack a joke or smile or give a smarmy face the entire movie. Still, it was hard to watch him and not thing "Van Wilder would never carry a gun!" Poor choice on the Casting Director's part for using a typecast actor to play a role he's not typecast for, but bravo on Van Wilder's part for stepping up to the plate and batting admirably.

The prolific but relatively untalented Ray Liotta, mainly known for his leading role in a movie whose title sounded like a porno but really wasn't ( Unlawful Entry ), actually did an admirable job as well. I normally rank him up there with Dolph Lundgren in acting ability, which is to say, minor supporting bit-part at best, but as supporting lead, he actually did a fairly decent job this time around.

Piven, Affleck, and Garcia were all adequate for their parts.

The set had to be one of the cheapest to produce, as almost the entire story takes place inside a hotel in Lake Tahoe. Other locations, like "an office" "a diner" etc, meant production cost on this sucker were kept very low. The brilliance of it was that the story completely and legitimately allowed for a complete lack of anyplace expensive, which is probably how Carnahan had enough money to pay some recognizable actors. So this really isn't a knock against the director. Indeed, it's a congratulatory remark on yet another creative trick employed by this clever writer/director to produce a good movie with less than top-notch resources.

I'd really like to see more by Joe Carnahan. It's obvious through and through that he's the one that really made this movie as good as it was. If anything held Smokin' Aces back, it was the lack of any A-List talent, blockbuster stunts, or big name locations. However, as I mentioned, I think that's part of this movie's charm. I think Carnahan could benefit greatly by working as an assistant director to Tarantino and Ritchie for a few films, to hone his talent, and as far as writing goes, I'd love to see him do a colaborative script with Christopher Nolan (writer/director: Memento). With some time, effort, honing of skills, and perhaps a good-sized budget, I could see Carnahan one day producing a 9.5 or 10 scale movie.

I originally intended to give Smokin' Aces an 8/10. It's not Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels, but it's definitely a B for Effort. However, in retrospect, Carnahan earns himself another half-point because he managed to do so much with so little. He also gets another half-point for creating one of the single most unique and funny characters I've seen in years (Warren). This is one of those movies where those whole is greater than the sum of its parts, but some of those parts are a whole lot more than the movie itself.

So, surprising even myself, I give Smokin' Aces a 9/10.

[edit on 7/17/2007 by thelibra]

posted on Jul, 17 2007 @ 12:16 PM

Originally posted by thelibra
The prolific but relatively untalented Ray Liotta, mainly known for his leading role in a movie whose title sounded like a porno but really wasn't ( Unlawful Entry ), actually did an admirable job as well. I normally rank him up there with Dolph Lundgren in acting ability, which is to say, minor supporting bit-part at best, but as supporting lead, he actually did a fairly decent job this time around.

say what?

Ever see Goodfellas?
How about Field of Dreams? Something Wild? Article 99? Dominick and Eugene? Copland? Identity (Jim Mangold loved working with him on the last two)

He was nominated for a golden globe for Something Wild (excellent movie by the way), he won an Emmy for a guest stint on ER, nominated for several others, including a SAG award for his work in the Rat Pack.

He's a real good actor who took too many stupid jobs (Grand Theft Auto game, Operation Dumbo Drop to name a few). Now he looks like he's been medicated or something but back in the day, he was always a good addition to a movie.

Dolph Lundgren is no Ray Liotta.

posted on Jul, 17 2007 @ 12:18 PM
My Review: It Sucked

Whoever directed it did a poor job at trying to be Tarantino. It was entertaining i guess, but nowhere near what it could have been. Let Quentin do his own movies.

posted on Jul, 17 2007 @ 12:25 PM
I've always liked Ray Liotta. At least until the Rat Pack movie. Sinatra he ain't. But that's probably unfair. No one could play that part.

I like Jeremy Piven and have been a fan since he played a writer on the Larry Sanders Show. Entourage cracks me up. First thing I've seen with Kevin Dillon that didn't make me want to hit him.

Smokin' Aces definitely goes on the list.

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