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.
Color, Motion Picture
STARS: Ryan Reynolds
, Ray Liotta
, Ben Affleck
Fans of Guy Ritchie
and Quentin Tarantino
...fans of chick flicks?
Better than adequate, considering the B-List Stars.
Better than adequate.
Some female nudity, Language, Graphic Violence.
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
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
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
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 (
), actually did an admirable job as well. I normally rank him up there with
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
). 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
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]